Feb 6, 1820 CE: African Americans Migrate to Liberia

Feb 6, 1820 CE: African Americans Migrate to Liberia

On February 6, 1820, the first group of freed U.S. enslaved people to resettle in Africa departed from New York.


6 - 12


Social Studies, U.S. History, World History

NGS Resource Carousel Loading Logo
Loading ...

On February 6, 1820, the first group of formerly enslaved people in the United States to resettle in Africa departed from New York. An organization called the American Colonization Society, with funding from Congress, had been established to return them to the U.S. colony of Liberia, in West Africa. Kidnapping and enslaving people from Africa had been abolished in the United States in 1808, though the practice of keeping people and their children enslaved was still legal in many states. People believed that African Americans would experience greater freedom and opportunity “back” in Africa. However, there were problems. Though of African descent, many of these Americans had spent most or all of their lives in the United States. They were used to their American lifestyles, which had little in common with Liberian communities. Of those born in Africa, few had memories of its various peoples and land they were taken from. Even so, Liberia was probably not their ancestral home. To the thinking of the American Colonization Society, Africans simply came from Africa, so any land would do. However, Africa is a large continent, with thousands of ethnic groups spread across many different environments. Though most American enslaved people had come from West Africa, few were prepared to live in the tropics, or able to integrate with local peoples. Despite this, over the next few decades, thousands of formerly enslaved people were sent to Liberia. In 1847, it became the first African colony to gain independene as a nation.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

National Geographic Society
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

For information on user permissions, please read our Terms of Service. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. They will best know the preferred format. When you reach out to them, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource.


If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.


Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service.


Any interactives on this page can only be played while you are visiting our website. You cannot download interactives.

Related Resources