Starting in 1830 and continuing until well after the Civil War, free, freed and self-emancipated Blacks came together in state and national political conventions. They strategized about how they might achieve educational, labor, and legal justice during decades when Black rights were constricting nationally and locally as well as during the intervening postwar years, before the very promise of a democracy that included all citizens was once foreclosed again. The Colored Conventions movement took place during critical decades which witnessed devastating anti-Black race riots and the growing popularity of the American Colonization Society; the Fugitive Slave Law and the proliferation of derogatory representations of Blacks; the Civil War and Reconstruction; and the return of Black disenfranchisement in legal, labor, and educational spheres in the late nineteenth century. Speakers at conventions responded by calling for community-based action that gathered funds, established schools and literary societies, and urged the necessity of organizing in what would become a decades-long campaign for civil and human rights. The convention minutes collected here illustrate the immense struggles and the profound courage of those who made it a point to organize and stand for what was rightly theirs.
Most conventions were organized either as state or national meetings, though there were some regional meetings for New England and the Southern States, for example. You may also search by region, though these are twenty-first century terms and don’t reflect the changing borders of the US in the nineteenth century itself. This collection is preserved in the University of Delaware Library Institutional Repository (UDSpace).
Select a convention to learn more, to view minutes in a document viewer, or to download meeting minute files.