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Mobility, Migration, and the 1855 Philadelphia National Convention


Louisiana National Convention of Colored Citizens"Louisiana - National Convention of Colored Citizens, in the house of Representatives, at New Orleans, April 10th," (1872). Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress. 

With a focus on news, migration and the popular lecture circuit during the 1850s, this exhibit investigates the ways men and women delegates and collaborating activists in their social networks claimed Philadelphia as site for an inter-state and international movement furthering race uplift. Palpable in proceedings capturing the 1855 Philadelphia convention are two events that illuminate issues at the forefront of Black political organizing: the controversy surrounding Mary Ann Shadd Cary's participation (and her outspoken stance on Canadian emigration) and George T. Downing's rather dramatic suggestion to burn a letter from a colonizationist. Both events take place in the midst of heightened debates about colonization and acute violence targeted at Black neighborhoods across the country. Both of these charged moments feature quite prominently in news coverage of the national convention.

It draws attention to the messages delegates espoused as they moved around the country, asking: where do public speakers go and what do they say while there?

On the right-hand menu, find various links to both residence maps and speaker circuits. Click the links to navigate the exhibit and learn more about the people and news coverage of the 1855 National Colored Convention. 


Credits and Citations

Curators: Jessica Conrad, Department of English, University of Delaware, and Samantha de Vera, Department of History, University of California, San Diego

Edited by Sarah L. Patterson and P. Gabrielle Foreman

Undergraduate Researchers: Nathan Nikolic, Gwen Meredith, and Caleb Trotter.

Graduate Student Researchers: Special thanks to the ENGL/HIST 641,“Black Activism and Print Culture in the 19th Century and the Digital Age” Spring 2017 seminar, taught by P. Gabrielle Foreman for their research and fact checking. 

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 Accessible Archives and Gale®, part of Cengage Learning, for granting permission to host digital images of newpapers in their databases, 19th Century U.S. Newspapers