Colored Conventions Movement

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Colored Convention Movement
NicknameBlack Conventions Movement
Formation1830
PurposeSocial justice, civil rights, activism
Location
  • United States,
    Canada
Key people
Richard Allen

The Colored Conventions Movement, or Black Conventions Movement, was a series of national, regional, and state conventions held irregularly during the decades preceding and following the American Civil War. The delegates who attended these conventions consisted of both free and formerly enslaved African Americans including religious leaders, businessmen, politicians, writers, publishers, editors, and abolitionists. The conventions provided "an organizational structure through which black men could maintain a distinct black leadership and pursue black abolitionist goals."[1] Colored Conventions occurred in thirty-one states across the US and in Ontario, Canada. The movement involved more than five thousand delegates[2][page needed] and tens of thousands of attendees.[3]

The minutes from these conventions show that Antebellum African Americans sought justice beyond the emancipation of their enslaved countrymen: they also organized to discuss labor, health care, temperance, emigration, voting rights, the right to a trial by jury, and educational equality.[4][page needed] The Colored Conventions Movement antedated the founding of any formal anti-slavery movement in the United States.[2][page needed]

The conventions significantly increased in number following the Civil War.[5] The Antebellum and postwar colored conventions were the precursors to larger, 20th-century African-American organizations, including the Colored National Labor Union, the Niagara Movement, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).[6][page needed]

History[edit]

In the early 19th century, national and local conventions involving a variety of political and social issues were pursued by increasing numbers of Americans. In 1830 and 1831, political parties held their first national nominating conventions.[7] Historian Howard H. Bell notes that the convention movement grew out of a trend toward greater self-expression among African Americans and was largely fostered by the appearance of newspapers such as Freedom's Journal, and was first suggested by Hezekiah Grice[where?].[8] The first documented convention was held at Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia in September 1830.[9] Delegates to this convention discussed the prospect of emigrating to Canada to find refuge from the harsh fugitive slave laws and legal discrimination under which they lived.[10] The first convention elected as president Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the first independent black denomination in the United States. The idea of buying land in Canada quickly gave way to addressing problems they faced at home, such as education and labor rights.

Philadelphia was the hub of the Colored Conventions movement for several years before nearby cities such as New York City, Albany, and Pittsburgh also started hosting conventions. By the 1850s, the conventions were extremely popular and multiple national, state, and local conventions were held every year. Although the majority of these antebellum conventions were held in northern, particularly New England states, conventions are documented[where?] as taking place in Kansas, Louisiana, and California.[11][12] The conventions attracted the most prominent African-American leaders from across the country, including Frederick Douglass, Charles Bennett Ray, Lewis Hayden, Charles Lenox Remond, Mary Ann Shadd, and William Still.

Following the Civil War, Colored Conventions began to appear in the Southern states as well, with one author noting that "we can not deny that the various conventions of the colored people in the late insurrectionary States compare favorably with those of their white brethren...their resolutions are of an elevated humanity and common sense to which those of the other Conventions make no pretension."[13] More Colored Conventions took place in the South during the late 1860s than the entire antebellum period.[12]

The post-war conventions culminated with the 1869 National Convention of Colored Men in Washington, D.C. The convention delegates wrote a letter congratulating General Ulysses S. Grant for being elected President of the United States, to which Grant responded, "I thank the Convention, of which you are the representative, for the confidence they have expressed, and I hope sincerely that the colored people of the Nation may receive every protection which the laws give to them. They shall have my efforts to secure such protection."[14]

During Reconstruction the national, state, and local Colored Conventions evolved into other kinds of state and national organizations. Delegates at the National Convention of Colored Men in Syracuse, NY founded the National Equal Rights Leagues and attempted to form state-level Equal Rights League chapters across the United States. In response to a denial of African American admittance to the National Labor Union, community leaders formed the Colored National Labor Union (CNLU) in December 1869.[15] Many former Colored Convention delegates, including Isaac Myers and Frederick Douglass, were instrumental in organizing the CNLU.[16]

Colored Conventions continued to take place in the late 1880s and 1890s, including Indianapolis in 1887 and state conventions in New Jersey, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas.[17][12] The convention movement slowed by the end of the century.

Legacy[edit]

T. Thomas Fortune's National Afro-American League was formed in 1890 and held national and state-level meetings throughout the 1890s. From 1896 to 1914, W. E. B. Du Bois held an annual conference at Atlanta University of national importance. In 1898, bishop Alexander Walters founded the National Afro-American Council, which met annually until 1907 and with Fortune and Booker T. Washington playing prominent roles. In 1905, Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter met near Niagara Falls, Canada, founding the Niagara Movement.

Du Bois' continued activism and relationships forged at these meetings led to the foundation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) by Moorfield Storey, Mary White Ovington and Du Bois in 1909.

List of conventions[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Yee, Shirley J. (1992). Black Women Abolitionists, A Study in Activism, 1828–1860. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. p. 143. ISBN 0870497367.
  2. ^ a b Casey, Jim (2021). Foreman, P. Gabrielle; Casey, Jim; Patterson, Sarah Lynn (eds.). The Colored Conventions Movement: Black Organizing in the Nineteenth Century. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-4696-5426-3. Archived from the original on April 7, 2022. Retrieved April 5, 2022.
  3. ^ "About the Colored Conventions". Archived from the original on April 26, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  4. ^ "Colored Conventions Project". Archived from the original on April 26, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  5. ^ "Home". Colored Conventions Project. Archived from the original on December 19, 2021. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  6. ^ Bell, Howard. Minutes and Proceedings of the Negro Convention Movement. Argo. Archived from the original on April 16, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
  7. ^ Webber, Christopher L. (2011). American to the Backbone. New York: Pegasus Books. pp. 63. ISBN 9781605981758.
  8. ^ Bell, Howard (1969). A Survey of the Negro Convention Movement −1830-1861. New York: Arno Press. p. 10. Archived from the original on April 7, 2022. Retrieved March 15, 2021.
  9. ^ Ernest, John (2011). A Nation Within a Nation: Organizing African-American Communities Before the Civil War. Ivan R Dee. p. 107. ISBN 9781566638074. Archived from the original on April 7, 2022. Retrieved March 15, 2021.
  10. ^ Bell, Howard (1969). "1830, "Proceedings of the Convention," Philadelphia, PA" (PDF). Minutes and Proceedings of the National Negro Conventions, 1830–1864. New York: Arno Press. pp. 1–12.[dead link]
  11. ^ California State Convention of Colored Citizens, Sacramento (1865). Proceedings. The Library of Congress. San Francisco, Printed at the Office of "The Elevator,".
  12. ^ a b c "Colored Conventions Project Digital Records". omeka.coloredconventions.org. Archived from the original on January 7, 2022. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  13. ^ "Convention of the Other Color". Harper's Weekly: 786. December 16, 1865 – via HathiTrust Digital Library.
  14. ^ a b "The Colored Convention". Harper's Weekly: 81–82. February 6, 1869 – via HathiTrust Digital Library.
  15. ^ Rondinone, Troy. "Colored National Labor Union". Encyclopedia of American History: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1856 to 1869, Revised Edition, vol. V. Archived from the original on April 18, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  16. ^ "Today in Labor History: Black workers form national union". December 6, 2012. Archived from the original on April 19, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  17. ^ a b "The Convention of Colored Citizens". Harper's Weekly: 378. May 28, 1887 – via HathiTrust Digital Library.
  18. ^ Bell, Howard H. (1960). "Some Reform Interests of the Negro during the 1850's as Reflected in State Conventions". Phylon (1960-). 21 (2): 173–181. doi:10.2307/274343. ISSN 0031-8906.
  19. ^ Yee, Shirley (April 1, 2011), National Negro Convention Movement (1831-1864), blackpast.org, archived from the original on August 20, 2020, retrieved September 2, 2020
  20. ^ Minutes and Proceedings of the Third Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Colour in These United States. By Order of the Convention. 1833.
  21. ^ Minutes and Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Colour in These United States. By Order of the Convention. 1834.
  22. ^ Minutes and Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Colour in These United States. By Order of the Convention. 1835.
  23. ^ Proceedings of the Convention Which Formed the Maine Union in Behalf of the Colored Race. The Library of Congress, Maine Union in Behalf of the Colored Race. Portland, ME: Portland, Merrill and Byram. 1835.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  24. ^ Magazine, Smithsonian; Masur, Kate. "Decades Before the Civil War, Black Activists Organized for Racial Equality". Smithsonian Magazine. Archived from the original on January 30, 2022. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  25. ^ "Convention of the Colored People of Ohio". The Philanthropist. Kate Masur. September 8, 1837. Archived from the original on January 30, 2022. Retrieved January 30, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  26. ^ Proceedings of the State Convention of the Colored Freemen of Pennsylvania : held in Pittsburgh, on the 23rd, 24th and 25th of August, 1841, for the purpose of considering their condition, and the means of its improvement. Pittsburgh, PA: Convention of the Colored Freemen of Pennsylvania. 1841.
  27. ^ Day, William Howard (1849). Minutes and address of the State Convention of the Colored Citizens of Ohio : convened at Columbus, January 10th, 11th, 12th, & 13th, 1849. Columbus, Ohio: State Convention of the Colored Citizens of Ohio.
  28. ^ Address to the constitutional convention of Ohio: from the state convention of colored men held in the city of Columbus, January 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th, 1851. State Convention of the Colored Citizens of Ohio. 1851.
  29. ^ "Article 5 -- No Title". The New York Times, Times Machine. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  30. ^ "Free-Suffrage Convention--Second Day's Proceedings". The New York Times. September 25, 1857. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  31. ^ Hinton, R[ichard] J[osiah] (June 1889). "John Brown and his men, before and after the raid on Harper's Ferry, October 16th, 17th, 18th, 1859". Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly. 2 (6): 691–703, at pp. 695–696. Archived from the original on June 14, 2021. Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  32. ^ "Gerrit Smith and his Colored Friends". The New York Times. October 7, 1858. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  33. ^ "Convention of Colored Men Postponed". The New York Times. June 23, 1863. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  34. ^ Catto, Octavius; Green, Alfred M.; Bustill, Joseph C. (1865). Proceedings of the State Equal Rights' Convention, of the Colored People of Pennsylvania, Held in the City of Harrisburg February 8th, 9th, and 10th, 1865: Together with a Few of the Arguments Presented Suggesting the Necessity for Holding the Convention, and an Address of the Colored State Convention to the People of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, Penn.: Order of the Convention.
  35. ^ "The Late Convention of Colored Men; Address to the Loyal Citizens of the United States and to Congress". The New York Times. August 13, 1865. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  36. ^ Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the National Equal Rights League Held in Cleveland, Ohio, October 19, 20, and 21, 1865. E.C. Markley and Son, National Equal Rights League. 1865.
  37. ^ Proceedings of the Illinois State Convention of Colored Men, assembled at Galesburg, October 16th, 17th, and 18th, containing the state and national addresses promulgated by it, with a list of the delegates composing it. The Library of Congress, Illinois State Convention of Colored Men Galesburg. Chicago, IL: Church, Goodman and Donnelley, printers. 1867.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  38. ^ Proceedings of the National Convention of the Colored Men of America: Held in Washington, D. C., on January 13, 14, 15, and 16, 1869. Washington, D.C.: Printed at the Great Republic Book and Newspaper Printing Establishment, National Convention of the Colored Men of America. 1869.
  39. ^ Proceedings of the State Convention of the Colored Citizens of Tennessee, held in Nashville, Feb. 22d, 23d, 24th & 25th, 1871. The Library of Congress, State Convention of the Colored Citizens of Tennessee, Nashville. [Nashville] C. LeRoi, printer. 1871.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  40. ^ "Education in the South: A Convention of Colored Citizens to Discuss the Question". The New York Times. December 8, 1883. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  41. ^ "Insisting on Their Rights; The Colored Citizens' Convention of the State of Connecticut". The New York Times. December 31, 1883. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  42. ^ "Tennesse Colored Men". The New York Times. August 27, 1883. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  43. ^ A History of the Club Movement Among the Colored Women of the United States of America as contained in the Minutes of the Conventions, Held in Boston, July 29, 30, 31, 1895, and of the National Federation of Afro-American Women, Held in Washington, D.C., July 20, 21, 22, 1896 (PDF). 1902. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 19, 2016. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  44. ^ McPherson, James. M., ed. (1969). Proceedings of the National Negro Conference 1909. New York: New York Times and Arno Press. Retrieved May 30, 2021.

External links[edit]