Bibb slaves sent to Liberia in Africa in 1832
By Michael Morrow


Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM



The American Colonization Society was established in 1816 by Robert Finley as an attempt to satisfy two groups in America. Ironically, these groups were on opposite ends of the spectrum on slavery in the early 1800s.
One group consisted of philanthropists, clergy and abolitionists who wanted to free African slaves and their descendants and provide them with the opportunity to return to Africa; the other group was the slave owners who feared free people of color and wanted to expel them from the United States. Both groups felt that free blacks would be unable to assimilate into the white society of this country.
At that time there were about two million Negroes living in the United States, 200,000 of whom were free persons of color. Henry Clay, a Kentucky Congressman and sympathizer with the plight of free blacks, believed that because of  “unconquerable prejudice” Blacks and Whites could not live together.
On Dec. 21, 1816, a group of white, upper-class males, including James Monroe, Bushrod Washington, Andrew Jackson, Francis Scott Key, and Daniel Webster, met at the Davis Hotel in Washington, D. C., with Henry Clay of Kentucky presiding.
The Society’s members relentlessly pressured Congress and the President for support. In 1819, they received $100,000 from Congress, and in January 1820, the first ship, the Elizabeth, sailed from New York headed for West Africa with three white American Colonization Society agents and 88 emigrants.
The first meeting of the Kentucky colonization Society, an auxiliary of the American Colonization Society for the Colonization of Free People of Color on the Coast of Africa, was held on Dec. 17, 1829, at the Presbyterian Church in Frankfort. The men who assembled there represented both houses of the Kentucky Legislature and were some of the most respected men of the Commonwealth. Henry Clay gave an eloquent address at the opening session. At 7:00,  Lt. Governor John Breathitt of Russellville, one of the vice presidents of the Society, took the chair of the Kentucky Society. Thus began a relationship between Kentucky and Liberia that lasted for over a century and gave Liberia one of her future presidents.
In 1829 Major Richard Bibb of Russellville, a Revolutionary War soldier and Methodist minister, freed 31 of his slaves and sent them to Liberia. His son-in-law, Dr. Bonarogas Roberts, sent one of his slaves (Richard Morton), whose wife (Hanna) was one of those freed by Major Bibb.
The story of Major Bibb’s freeing his slaves and sending them to Liberia has been told many times in the last 180 years. One story passed down was told by Andrew Bibb, who was freed by Major Bibb’s will at his death in 1839. Andrew Bibb was interviewed by Logan County native M. B. Morton, who wrote an article appearing in the Louisville Courier Journal on Oct. 19, 1897. “The sun streamed across the red cedar picket fence that hedged about the wood fence and was reflected from the red brick wall of a fine old residence. In the center of the yard stood an old gentleman with uplifted hands, and beside him was a barrel on end, on top of which was placed a Bible and a hymn book. In front and around him were nearly 100 slaves. Twenty-nine of these were about to start as free men and women in the land of their fathers in far off Africa after several generations of servitude in America.
"The old man asked a divine blessing upon them. Since his youth he had cared for them, and before that they or their parents had belonged to his father. He believed slavery was wrong and was taking the initial step toward putting into execution a long cherished plan. He was about to send one-third of his slaves to Liberia; the others he intended to liberate at his death. He had read a chapter in the Bible and had given out a hymn, and when his prayer was finished, many a black face was bathed in tears, and the slaves gathered about and shook Old Master’s hand for the last time and heard the accent of his kindly voice."
Andrew added, "The old picket fence looked like a palisade, and they sung like mocking birds. And when they began to shake Old Master by the hand and say good bye, a pain struck me right below the heart, and I ran into the house and crawled under the bed.” Andrew also said that the Wards, who lived in the Coon Range in Northern Logan County, were employed to take the slaves on wagons to Clarksville. From there they went by steamboat to New Orleans. The Negroes chosen were said to be “shiftless and refractory, obstinately resistant to authority or control, unruly.” Andrew was five years old in 1829 when the slaves were sent to Liberia. It is likely that the statement that the slaves were “shiftless and refractory” was told to him by some older person. 
His is the only report we have dealing with the slaves’ voyage to Liberia. They boarded the brig Ajax on April 20, 1833, at New Orleans, with the white missionary A. H. Savage along with H. D. King, agent for the Tennessee Colonization Society. The cost of the expedition ($5,000) was defrayed by the American Colonization Society with a donation of $2,300 from the Kentucky Society. There were 118 other slaves, 107 from Kentucky. One of the passengers was Alfred Russell of Lexington, future President of Liberia. En route, cholera struck the passengers. Between 30 and 40 died, including three of the Bibb slaves.
The slaves who were sent by Major Bibb to Liberia were the children and grandchildren of two slaves, Lucy and Kiziah, who came to Kentucky from Virginia with Major Bibb in the early 1800s. Lucy’s oldest child, Andrew, born in 1798, was the oldest person in the group. The youngest was Lucinda, born Nov. 17, 1832, to Kiziah’s daughter Hanna and Hanna’s husband, Richard Morton, who was sent by Dr. Roberts.
The question is often posed as to whether there are descendants of these Logan Countians in Liberia today. It is possible. I have information on all of these people, and among the children, there are at least six possibilities of survivorship to child-bearing age.




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