The Rhetorical Origins of the African Colonization Movement in the United States
Stillion Southard, Bjorn Frederick
Klumpp, James F
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From the introduction of slavery to British North America, the concurrent presence of freedom and slavery fostered much tension. Still, in the early 1800s, slavery was not yet the intransigent issue that would lead to civil war. Amidst mounting tensions and declining, yet still viable, possibility for resolution, a nationwide effort to colonize free blacks to Africa began. Positioned as neither immediate emancipation, nor the continuation of the status quo, colonizationists framed their scheme as a solution to the problem of slavery. With the discourse generated at a germinal meeting on December 21, 1816, the American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour of the United States (later called the American Colonization Society) was created and motivations for African colonization were set forth. This project explores the rhetorical development of the national African colonization movement in The United States. To begin, this project traces the discursive tensions between discourses of security and morality to which colonizationists would need to attend to advance their scheme. Driving this tension was an emerging antagonism between instrumental and pathetic dimensions of rhetoric. The project then illuminates the potential to overcome such tensions that had been cultivated in political economic (i.e., legislative) discourse about slavery. This potential resolution was defined by the development of moderate rhetorical strategies to address the problem of slavery. Turning to the initial meeting of the Colonization Society, this project attends to how colonizationists negotiated the discursive tensions and used the rhetorical resources of the moment to motivate colonization. Ultimately, this project argues that the motivations offered by colonizationists in support of African colonization failed in their attempt to use moderate rhetorical strategies and thus, failed to overcome the discursive tensions of slavery.