The Joshua Danforth papers (69 items) contain 63 letters, 2 issues of The African Repository, and 4 miscellaneous items, all concerning Joshua Noble Danforth, a Presbyterian minister and agent for the American Colonization Society. The bulk of the collection documents Danforth's activities as agent for the Society from 1832-1834. Agents stationed in other cities described the Society's endeavors and their reception in New England, while communications from Ralph Gurley, at the society's Washington headquarters, addressed the society's activities at a national level. The letters concern conditions of colonization and education in Liberia, freed slaves, legislative plans, contemporary attitudes toward the society and its goals, fundraising, society administration, and the appointment of officers.
Letters in this collection are from, among many others, such notable people as George Grennell, a U.S. Congressman and trustee of Amherst College; Samuel Lathrop, a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts as well as a lawyer and Massachusetts State Senator; David L. Morril, a U.S. Senator from and governor of New Hampshire; and Samuel Wells, who later became governor of Maine. One particularly noteworthy letter is from, as Danforth writes on the cover, "a Negro signing himself ‘Justice’ complaining of the [American Colonization] society.” In this letter, from Charleston on July 8, 1832, the author asks Danforth: "Did Christ die for the Black man?" and elegantly writes: "Sir, I claim not equal rank with you for talent, and my information is verry limited: but I do fear that you are honestly engaged in a most unholy cause; no more no less than at driving (or attempting to drive; for it can never be effected) almost 3,000,000 of natives of this soil to the sickly clime of Africa."
In addition to Danforth's professional letters are approximately 13 personal letters to Danforth, his wife, and his family from various correspondents, including Ralph Gurley. Personal correspondents for Danforth and his wife include their siblings and other family members. The bulk of the collection's personal correspondence comes after 1834.
Printed material consists of two issues of The African Repository, the publication of the American Colonization Society. The 1852 issue (volume 28) is signed by Danforth. The second issue is from 1862 (volume 38).
The Miscellaneous series contains undated writings including a "Sermon for the Blacks," a list of goals of the Colonization movement, and a letter to the editor of the Gazette entitled The Way to Do Certain Things.