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Colored Conventions and the Black Press




An African American family gathers around to listen as a man reads a newspaper and a child uses a torch to illuminate it.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. "Soldier Examining Newspaper By Torchlight As Others Watch, Civil War Era." New York Public Library Digital Collections.  

Delving into the Colored Conventions movement inevitably leads scholars to comb through Black newspapers. Through the Black press, discussions held at conventions were shared with larger audiences. Thousands of African Americans subscribed to and supported different Black periodicals. Periodicals were often read aloud at conventions and among communities, allowing people of varying levels of literacy to stay informed and engage in political discussions. Importantly, the nineteenth-century Black press encouraged African Americans to identify with a voice when their own seemed like a whisper lost in dominant white discourse.

This exhibit examines the role of Black newspapers in furthering the reach of Colored Conventions. In particular, it looks at two conventions. Part A focuses on the 1854 National Emigration Convention held in Cleveland, Ohio. This section explores the ways The North Star, Frederick Douglass’ emerging prominent paper, covered the reports of and debates in the 1854 Convention. Part B focuses on the 1847 National Convention of Colored People and their Friends held in Troy, New York. This section reviews press coverage that surrounded the 1847 Convention and pays particular attention to the role of Black women and how they used print to promote emigration. 

Introduction written by Samantha de Vera, University of Delaware, Fall 2016.

Edited by Sarah Patterson. 

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Curators: Part A: Ashley Durrance, Hannah Harkins, Nicholas Palombo, Leslie Rewis. Part B: Melanie Berry, Christy Hutcheson, Eli Jones, and Morgan Shaffer. Taught by: Benjamin Fagan, Auburn University, Fall, 2016.

Edited by Samantha Q. de Vera, Simone Austin and Sarah Patterson. 

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 their database, 19th Century U.S. Newspaper and to Accessible Archives for permission to host digital images of newspapers in their database African American Newspapers: The 19th Century in this exhibit.