Traditional Origin Story


The traditional Colored Convention origin story centers on Hezekiah Grice, a Baltimore native. Grice was born free in Ohio but sensed as a young man that racial discrimination  prevented him from gaining meaningful employment and status as a citizen, and wondered if emigration to Canada would be the best opportunity for him to live with basic human rights. According to the Anglo-African Magazine, which published an article in 1859 detailing this story, Grice came into contact with two well-known white abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison and Benjamin Lundy, the publishers of The Genius of Universal Emancipation, and then, in April, 1830, sent letters to many prominent African American men in the free states, requesting their opinions on the idea of organizing a national meeting to discuss the subject of mass emigration [1].


Several months after Grice's letter, Richard Allen became the first to respond. Bishop Allen was 70 years-old at this time, but was one of the most influential Black leaders in the United States. He lived in Philadelphia, where he founded the African Methodist Episcopal church in 1794. Bishop Allen also founded the Free African Society in 1787, a non-denominational religious organization meant to promote the free African American community in Philadelphia. Bishop Allen told Grice to come "immediately to Philadelphia," and became instrumental in developing this first convention. He hosted the convention at Mother Bethel AME Church, his congregation, served as the convention president, delivered the address, and his son, John, served on the Convention's Board of Managers. Bishop Allen passed away several months after this convention and is buried next to his wife, Sarah, another prominent reformer and religious leader, at Mother Bethel [2]. 

 

Sources:

[1]  Thomas Hamilton. The Anglo-African magazine. (New York: Arno Press and the New York Times, 1859), 305.

[2] Newman, Richard S. Freedom's Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers. New York: New York University Press, 2008.