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Benjamin Coates African Colonization collection

Identifier: HC.MC-1190

Scope and Contents

The collection consists primarily of letters written to American Quaker reformer, Benjamin Coates (1808-1887) whose work toward the abolition of slavery led to a relationship with many well-known people connected to Liberia, a West African colony established by the American Colonization Society to provide a new home and a fresh start away from slavery to free Blacks in the mid-19th century. The letters show Coates to be a philanthropist who often donated books to the cause of African American/Liberian education.

Correspondents include: George N. Allen, E.D. Bassett, George Bethune, Edward Blyden, Robert? Campbell, John E. Carter, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, M.E. Bibb Cary, Thomas Chase, Benjamin Coates, A. Cope, William Coppinger, Alex Crummell, E.B. Darnell, Thomas I. Durante, Frederick Douglass, William Evans, M.H. Freeman, Henry Highland Garnet, I. McD. Gurley, E.M. Gurley, Thomas Hamilton, Robert Harper?, J.D. Harris, Henry Hartshorne, Annie Heacock, W.S. Hilles, Joseph Hobbins, J.I. Holly, Ezra Johnson, Eleanor Ketchum, J.M. McKean, William F. Mitchell, Edmund Morris, J.B. Pinney, G.D. Pike, Evelyn E. Plummer, A. Prince, James E. Rhoads, Robert Carter & Bros., J.J. Roberts, Martin W. Roberts, J.B. Smith, D. Say?, M. Schofield, George L. Stearns, Joseph Tracy, Reuben Tomlinson, Thomas Tucker, Thomas Tucker, Alvin Varner, H.O. Wagoner, D.B. Warner, Jonathan Welsh, William Whipper, G. Whipple, Yates & Porterfield, John Young.


  • Creation: 1848-1880
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1858 - 1869


Conditions Governing Use

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17)

Biographical / Historical

Benjamin Coates (1808-1887), son of George Morrison and Rebecca Hornor Coates, Quaker members of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting for the Northern District, later Philadelphia Monthly Meeting (Arch Street), attended William Penn Charter School, entered the business world as a dry goods, later wool merchant. His next occupation was with the publishing firm, Porter & Coates of Philadelphia. He was also among a certain group of Philadelphia Quakers to become deeply involved in philanthropy, particularly those efforts dealing with abolition and education. He was a member of several organizations, including the Friends Freedmen, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, the Union Benevolent Association, the Institute for Colored Youth and others. The philosophical inclinations of Benjamin Coates were shaped in part by the abolitionist networks of his day. Coates was convinced that a new colony in West Africa, populated by Black Americans, was the best strategy for ending slavery and giving Black Americans a positive fresh start. In this regard, Coates was involved with the American Colonization Society, an organization which established the colony of Liberia to resettle free Black Americans in West Africa Coates forged an alliance with African American Joseph Jenkins Roberts, who emigrated to Liberia in 1829, and became a symbol of the personal, financial, and economic opportunities that could be had in Africa. From the 1840s until Roberts' death in 1876, Coates and Roberts collaborated to encourage emigration, advising their Black correspondents to emigrate, and encouraging their white associates to help them do so. Coates was in a good position for this work, given his connections to philanthropists and social activists across the United States, Canada, England and Africa and his broad readings on the topic. Recognizing that the cotton crop was an integral part within the issues of slave labor and export revenue, Coates envisioned limiting Southern profits, replaced by an international market to include Africa. Benjamin Coates propounded the abolition of slavery as the catalyst for worldwide change, viewing slavery as a problem that plagued his religious community, his business relationships, his country's political system, the world economy and his Quaker conscience. Benjamin Coates was the author of "Cotton Cultivation in Africa, Suggestions on the Importance of the Cultivation of Cotton in Africa, in Reference to the Abolition of Slavery in the United States…” in 1858.

Ebenezer D.C. Bassett (1833-1908) was principal of the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia. He was the first Black diplomat appointed by Pres. Grant minister to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Edward Blyden (1832-1912) emigrated to Liberia where he gained an education and became a Black Christian missionary, professor at Liberia College and Liberia’s education minister.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893), a free-born Black Pennsylvanian who was driven to Canada, in the wake of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, came slowly to approve the colonization movement, which she forwarded in her newspaper, The Provincial Freeman.

William Coppinger (1828-1892) rose in the ranks of the American Colonization Society, becoming its secretary/treasurer and secretary of the Pennsylvania Colonization Society Alex Crummell (1819-1898), born in New York, attended Yale Theological Seminary, was a clergyman, scholar and activist and involved in the struggle for Black rights and education and the development of Liberia.

Thomas J. Durant (1817-1882), a lawyer and enslaver who fought for the Confederate army, he came to believe in Black suffrage.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895), an antislavery worker with the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society beginning in 1841 and one of the most prominent abolitionists of his time, and was generally opposed to colonization.

Martin Freeman (1826?-1889) emigrated to Liberia in 1864 and taught math and natural philosophy at Liberia College.

Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882), a formerly enslaved Black person who became the first president of the African Civilization Society which provided support for those Black people who chose to go to Africa under its aegis.

William S. Hilles (1825-1876) a Quaker, graduated from Haverford College in 1842, taught there from 1844-1845

John B. Pinney was in Liberia during the 1830s as a missionary and as temporary governor and it appears that in 1868 he returned there.

Joseph Jenkins Roberts (1809-1876), a successful entrepreneur who became Liberia’s first president in 1848, he courted and counted on the support of philanthropists in the United States and Britain, including Benjamin Coates.

Joseph Tracy (1793?-1874) was an author of such books as Colonization and missions. A historical examination of the state of society in western Africa, as formed by paganism and Muhammedanism, slavery ….

Information for biographical entries from: Back to Africa: Benjamin Coates and the colonization movement in America, 1848-1880 / edited by Emma J. Lapsansky-Werner, Margaret Hope Bacon ; with Marc Chalufour, Benjamin B. Miller, Meenakshi Rajan. University Park, Pa. Pennsylvania State University Press, c2005


1 linear ft. (2 document boxes)

Language of Materials



Letters relating to the emigration of free Blacks to the West African colony of Liberia and establishment of Liberian institutions written to American Quaker reformer, Benjamin Coates (1808-1887) whose work toward the abolition of slavery led to a relationship with many well-known people connected to Liberia, a colony established to offer a new home and a fresh start away from slavery to free Blacks in the mid-19th century.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase and gift from Morrison Huston, January 1999. Accession # 6338.

Processing Information

First processed in March 2006, then revised by Natalia Gutierrez-Jones, July 10th 2015.

Benjamin Coates African Colonization collection,1848-1880
Natalia Gutierrez-Jones
July, 2015
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • May 2021: Revised by Janeen Lamontagne

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting or requesting repoductions from Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections Library

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Haverford PA 19041 USA US