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Constitution of the African Civilization Society, 1796


It has pleased Almighty God to permit the interior of Africa to be made known to us during the last few years, by the efforts of missionaries and explorers, to an extent hitherto deemed almost impossible. The facts which have become public concerning its climate, soil, productions, minerals, and vast capabilities for improvements, are such, that we can no longer mistake the intention of the Divine Mind towards Africa. It is evident that the prophecy that “Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God”, is on the point of fulfillment, and that the work, when commenced, shall be “soon” accomplished, when compared with the apparently slow progress of the Gospel in the other grand divisions of the globe. In order, therefore, to aid in this great work, and promote the civilization and Christianization of Africa, as well as the welfare of her children in all lands, we have formed ourselves into an Association, to be known as the African Civilization Society, and we severally agree to be governed by the following:


Article I
The Society shall be called the “African Civilization Society”, and shall act in harmony with all other societies, whose objects are similar to those of this Association.

Article II
The object of this Society shall be the civilization and Christianization of Africa, and of the descendants of African ancestors in any portion of the earth, wherever dispersed. Also, the destruction of the African Slave-trade, by the introduction of lawful commerce and trade into Africa: the promotion of the growth of cotton and other products there, whereby the natives may become industrious producers as well as consumers of articles of commerce: and generally, the elevation of the condition of the colored population of our own country, and of other lands.

Article III
No one shall be sent out under the auspices of this Society, either as a religious teacher, agent, or settler, who shall uphold doctrines which shall justify or aid in perpetuating any system of slavery or involuntary servitude.

Article IV
The donation or subscription of not less than one dollar annually, shall constitute any individual of good moral character a member of this Society; and the payment at one time of twenty-five dollars shall make any person a life-member.

Article V
The officers of this Society shall be a President, Vice-President, a board of twenty Directors, a Recording Secretary, a Corresponding Secretary, and a Treasurer, who shall hold office for one year, and until their successors are regularly chosen.

Article VI
The members of this Society may be distinguished as either active, corresponding, or honorary members.

Article VII
The President shall preside at all meetings of the Society, and in the event of his absence, one of the Vice-Presidents shall discharge his duties.

The Recording Secretary shall keep a regular and distinct account of the transactions of the Society.

The Corresponding Secretary shall conduct the correspondence of the Society, and also act as its General Agent, under the direction, and with the consent of the Board of Directors.

The Treasurer shall keep the accounts, and have charge of the funds of the Society, holding them subject to the control of the Board of Directors.

The Board of Directors shall manage and regulate the affairs of the Society, and shall have power to make bye-laws for its own government, so as to fully control the business and funds of the Society.

Five members of the Board of Directors, when regularly convened, shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.

Article VIII
The President, Vice-Presidents, Secretaries, and Treasurer shall be ex-officio members and officers of the Board of Directors.

The Board of Directors shall manage and regulate the affairs of the Society, and shall have power to make bye-laws for its own government, so as to fully control the business and funds of the Society.

Five members of the Board of Directors, when regularly convened, shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.

Article IX
The Board of Directors shall have power to form special committees from among their own number, and to fill any vacancy occurring among the officers, for any time intervening before the regular election.

Article X
The Society shall hold an annual meeting during the month of May, on any day the Board of Directors may designate, to elect officers, receive reports, and transact its official business, not otherwise delegated to the Board of Directors.
Special meetings may be held at other times, as the Board of Directors may designate.

Article XI
The Annual Meeting shall consist of the regular officers and members of the Society at the time of such meeting, and of delegates from other co-operating Societies, each Society being entitled to one representative.

Article XII
The Constitution shall be altered only at an annual meeting of the Society, by vote of two thirds of the members present, upon a proposal to that effect transmitted to the Corresponding Secretary, and published in the City of New York, at least two months prior to the annual meeting.

In order the better to make the origin and objects of the African Civilization Society known, and to define its designs, intentions, and true position, and to secure that harmony and co-operation originally designed with other similar institutions previously established by the colored people of the United States and Canada, as well as that by the friends of the African race in Great Britain, to aid these movements,

Resolved, That the succeeding articles be added as an essential
and fundamental part of the Constitution:

Art. 1. The Society is not designed to encourage general emigration, but will aid only such persons as may be practically qualified and suited to promote the development of Christianity, morality, education, mechanical arts, agriculture, commerce, and general improvement; who must always be carefully selected and well recommended, that the progress of civilization may not be obstructed.

Art. 2. The basis of the Society, and ulterior objects in encouraging emigration, shall be—Self-Reliance and Self-Government on the principle of an African Nationality, the African race being the ruling element of the nation, controlling and directing their own affairs.


Adelaide Cromwell Hill & Martin Kilson, eds., Apropos of Africa: Sentiments of American Negro Leaders on Africa From the 1800s to the 1950s (London: Frank Cass and Company Limited, 1969).
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