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(1817) J. Forten & Russel Perrott, “An Address To The Humane And Benevolent Inhabitants Of The City And County Of Philadelphia

On August 10, 1817, James Forten and Russel Perrott served as chairman and secretary of a large indignation meeting of Philadelphia’s free African American community. The gathering protested the efforts of the year-old American Colonization Society to recruit blacks to leave the United States for Africa. Although many African Americans initially supported ACS efforts, these Philadelphians apparently recognized that the migration of the small free black population, which was most vocal in its opposition to slavery, would strengthen rather than weaken the institution. Forten and Perrott expressed their views in this joint address to Philadelphia’s white community.

The free people of colour, assembled together, under circumstances of deep interest to their happiness and welfare, humbly and respectfully lay before you this expression of their feelings and apprehensions.

Relieved from the miseries of slavery, many of us by your aid, possessing the benefits which industry and integrity in this pros¬perous country assure to all its inhabitants, enjoying the rich bless¬ings of religion, by opportunities of worshiping the only true God, under the light of Christianity, each of us according to his under¬standing; and having afforded to us and to our children the means of education and improvement; we have no wish to separate from our present homes, for any purpose whatever. Contented with our present situation and condition we are not desirous of increasing their prosperity, but by honest efforts and by the use of those oppor¬tunities for their improvement, which the constitution and laws allow to all. It is therefore with painful solicitude, and sorrowing regret, we have seen a plan for colonizing the free people of colour of the United States on the coast of Africa, brought forward under the auspices and sanction of gentlemen whose names give value to all they recommend, and who certainly are among the wisest, the best, and the most benevolent of men, in this great nation.

If the plan of colonizing is intended for our