Digital copy of a hand-written document

Memorial of the colored members of Allen’s Chapel, African Methodist Episcopal Church to the Cincinnati Conference, Cincinnati, 1854. Courtesy of the Cincinnati History Library and Archives.

One of the most significant topics discussed at the 1858 convention was whether it would ever be possible for African Americans to feel secure in a country that had protected enslavement since its inception. Emigration, voluntary and self-directed efforts to settle outside the United States, had been practiced by Cincinnati Blacks in the past, particularly after the massive anti-Black riot of 1829. The term “colonization” applied to projects organized by whites convinced that free people of color should not remain in the United States. Two attendees at the conference were involved in efforts to settle outside the country.  Peter H. Clark had rejected colonization when he realized the plan was poorly conceived and funded. Another delegate, Mr. [W. H.] Day, had been an emigrant and “returned to still resist it.” The argument that seemed to convince the convention to reject emigration as a policy was “labor and self-sacrifice were required to make a home in a foreign land; and when our minds were made up to maintain and endure that amount of labor—make such sacrifices as were essential to founding a home elsewhere –then we would be prepared to achieve our rights at home.”

In 1854 an “indignation meeting” at Cincinnati’s Allen Temple A.M.E. Church sent a memorial to white Methodist Episcopalians opposing their support of the American Colonization Society. Two of the signers, Rev. A[ugustus] R. Green and Philip Toliver, had been delegates to the National Emigration Convention of Colored People only a month before. Four years later, four of the twelve men who signed the memorial were delegates to the Ohio Colored Convention: Philip Tolliver, Joseph J. Fowler, Peter Harbison, and George Peterson.