Date of Award

Fall 2006

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Cynthia Van Zandt


Removal---or, the exile and forced migration of marginalized cultural and racial groups from one region of the British Empire and, later, the United States, to another less volatile region---emerged as a key tool in the construction of the Anglo-American Atlantic World. British officials used removal to secure the empire, ridding the realm of Catholic menaces, black insurgents, challenges to the throne and the brutal conflicts between English colonists and Native Americans. American leaders, after the conclusion of the American Revolution, viewed removal as a viable solution to the problem of slavery and the potential troubles induced by freeing the slaves. Thomas Jefferson, among other Virginians, Britons and West Indians, advocated removing all freed blacks to parts unknown. At the same time, black Masons in New England embarked on the first organized attempt to land free African-Americans in Sierra Leone in 1795/6, calling on free Africans in America to return to their native land to Christianize the continent. By 1812, Paul Cuffe advocated black emigration partly for religious reasons, but also in an effort to open new trade opportunities with West Africa.

Later, the American Colonization Society---heavily supported by current and former slaveholders, high profile politicians such as Henry Clay, and moral improvement organizations---motivated some freed blacks to voluntarily go to Africa to settle Liberia. Soon, however, free blacks who formerly supported voluntary emigration began to view the idea as removal, a colonization scheme forced on them by powerful whites. Many blacks such as James Forten and Richard Allen refocused their attention on building strong, free black communities in America, while others looked to black organized and sponsored emigration to Haiti. As the Civil War erupted and the United States faced the prospect of thousands of free blacks, Abraham Lincoln's government joined the growing Haitian colonization movement, sponsoring a colony in Haiti that failed within one year. Lincoln also called for the creation of a colony in South America for newly emancipated African-Americans, revealing the extent to which removal had become a highly racialized and institutionalized ideology that went far beyond the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Indeed, removal and colonization served as a key ingredient in America's plans for territorial expansion throughout the nineteenth century. Men like Thomas Jefferson attempted to replace free blacks with immigrant white Europeans, which they believed made for a more harmonious and stable republic.