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The First National Convention: The Meeting that Launched a Movement

Palm Springs commercial photography

The gathering of African American leaders from various regions of the antebellum north, held at Philadelphia's Mother Bethel AME church in 1830, is universally considered to be the inaugural national Colored Convention. For several reasons, the 1830 convention eludes simple categorization. It's not called a "convention" but a "constitution," for example. Why, then, is it so widely accepted as the foundational meeting for a movement that would last for nearly seven decades? What would it mean to consider it to be a prelude, rather than the first, of many conventions? This exhibit seeks to answer those questions. The exhibit contains three sections discussing this inaugural meeting. The first describes how this 1830 convention relates to the rest of the Colored Convention movement.The second describes the important people, series of events, and lasting documents that brought the convention to life. The third describes the convention itself. What happened? How did this convention lead to so many others? Ultimately, this exhibit shows how this convention both launched--and is fundamentally different from--the many that followed it.

Palm Springs commercial photography


Use the right-hand menu bar to navigate exhibit pages. The exhibit includes:

  • Political Rituals and Routines
  • Rules of Conduct
  • Correct Conduct 
  • Women's Roles 


Curator: Eric Brown

Edited by P. Gabrielle Foreman and Sarah Patterson.

Technical Assistance by Samantha DeVera. Network visualiation by Jim Casey.

The Colored Conventions Project proudly partners with national and local teaching partners and student contributors to bring the buried history of nineteenth-century Black political organizing to digital life. 

Special thanks to Gale®, part of Cengage Learning, for granting permission to host digital images of newpapers in its database, 19th Century U.S. Newspapers.