The North American 19th-Century Black Activist Movement

Timeline: 1820 - 1829

Illustration of American Colonization Society Meeting.
Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

The 1830s may have marked the transformation of the North American 19th-century Black activist movement but the 1820s definitely laid the groundwork for the next decade.

During this decade, schools were established to educate young African American children.

At the same time, the American Colonization Society helped African Americans emigrate to present-day Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In addition, several anti-enslavement societies were formed. These organizations began using narratives by enslaved people and newspapers to publicize the horrors of the institution. 

1820

  • The Missouri Compromise allows Missouri to enter the Union as a state that allowed enslavement and Maine as a free state. The Compromise also bans the institution in territory west of Missouri.
  • African Americans in New York organize and emigrate from Africa to Sierra Leone. The emigration was organized by the American Colonization Society, an association established to send freed African Americans back to Africa.

1821

  • The first American anti-enslavement newspaper, The Genius of Universal Emancipation is published in Mt. Pleasant, Ohio by Benjamin Lundy. William Lloyd Garrison helps to edit and publish the newspaper.

1822

  • A freed African American, Denmark Vessey organizes an uprising by enslaved people in Charleston.
  • Segregated public schools are established in Philadelphia for African American children.

1823

  • The Anti Slavery Society is established in Great Britain.

1824

  • Liberia is founded by freed African Americans. Founded by the American Colonization Society, the land was originally known as Monrovia.
  • Elizabeth Hyrick publishes the pamphlet, Immediate not Gradual Emancipation

1825

  • The narrative by an enslaved person, A Narrative of Some Remarkable Incidents in the Life of Solomon Bayley, Formerly a Slave, in the State of Delawar, North America: Written by Himself is published in London. 
  • The Narrative of the Enslavement of Ottobah Cugoano, a Native of Africa: Published by HImself on the Year 1787" is included in The Negro's Memorial; or Abolitionist's Catechism, by a North American 19th-century Black activist, is published in London by Thomas Fisher. 
  • Formerly enslaved person William B. Grimes publishes "Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave."

1826

  • Sojourner Truth, feminist and North American 19th-century Black activist, escapes enslavement with her infant daughter, Sophia.

1827

  • Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm publish the first African American newspaper, Freedom's Journal. The publication is circulated in eleven states, Haiti, Europe, and Canada.
  • Sarah Mapps Douglass establishes a school for African American children in Philadelphia.

1829

  • Anti-enslavement activist David Walker publishes his pamphlet, Walker's Appeal in Four Articles. David Walker's Appeal is considered the most radical anti-enslavement publications when it was published because of its emphasis on promoting rebellion and opposition to colonization.
  • The narrative by an enslaved person,  Life and Adventures of Robert, the Hermit of Massachusetts, Who Has Lived 14 Years in a Cave, Secluded from Human Society. Comprising, an Account of His Birth, Parentage, Sufferings, and Providential Escape from Unjust and Cruel Bondage in Early Life and His Reasons for Becoming a Recluse: Taken from His Own Mouth, and Published for His Benefit, is told to activist Henry Trumbull by Robert Voorhis.