Post-convention News Coverage

As the Colored Conventions movement gained momentum, the nation approached its greatest conflict. News paper coverage in both white and Black papers, reflected the contentious nature of public debate as well as the inherent need for it. The 1855 National Colored Convention was advertised and avidly discussed in the months leading up to its October date. During the convention, dramatic moments that elicited audience reaction, such as George Downing's burning of a letter from a colonization supporter received especial attention in the news.

Newspaper coverage for the 1855 National Convention filled the head-lines months before and after it occurred. In the articles, authors expressed reasons to hold the convention, as well as goals and details of the convention. Convention calls and the attendant opinions readers had about the national convention could even be read in Frederick Douglass' Paper the summer leading up to the October convention. Following promotion in the Frederick Douglass' Paper, other newspapers picked up the story; most of them simply mentioned the planned convention in short articles. But other readers such as Communipaw, (a psuedonym) wrote about what he thought should be discussed, still others touched on more practical matters such as concerns about attendee housing.

Once the convention began, newspapers covered many of the events with particular attention given to controversial and or more dramatic moments. Many articles discussed Mary Ann Shadd, the first female delegate, with close attention given to the debate and speeches which raged before she was admitted; readers offered varying opinions on the subject. Another important incident which received detailed coverage was the colonization letter incident. Delegates passionately discussed the best way to dispose of the letter, which they strongly opposed. Coverage ranged from indifferent to disapproving of this event, which caused a great uproar in the convention. Another topic which received a fair amount of press was the Passmore Wilson debate. The convention body wanted to thank Wilson, who had risked his safety assisting fugitive enslaved people escape to freedom. Delegates debates how to best recognizee and reward Wilson. Frederick Douglass, opposed gifting him with a monetary reward while others thought that most fitting. Besides these major topics, coverage recounted facts: the numbers of attendees, the demographics reports, and resolutions passed. Some opinion pieces which seemed negatively biased about the proceedings were also printed.

Overall the convention was depicted in a positive light in both Black and white papers. The press did a note-worthy job of insuring that everyone was well informed. 

Click on the images above to read newspaper accounts of the 1855 National Colored Convention.

"National Convention of Colored Men."

"National Convention of Colored Men." Liberator, 23 Nov. 1855. From Gale. 19th Century U.S. Newspapers. ©2008 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc.  

A listing of resolutions passed at the National Colored Convention. Many pointed out education is essential, but spending money on such a venture while others were still enslaved seemed unethical. It was downvoted, so they didn't fund the university proposition.



As the authors noted in this editorial, they didn't have the chance to write a fully detailed description of the convention in time for this article, but this article is full of other interesting information. It's an overview mostly, filled with their observations throughout the convention. Interestingly enough, the authors found that the debates inhibited passing of more resolutions. They went over Mary Ann Shadds admittance into the convention, as well as a few other topics, however, they were all brushed over. 

"City Affairs."

"City Affairs." North American and United States Gazette, 17 Oct. 1855. From Gale. 19th Century U.S. Newspapers. ©2008 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. 

The Gazette covers the early proceedings of the National Colored Convention in Philadelphia, which was held at Franklin Hall. Amos G.  Beeman, of Connecticut was named President, and around one hundred delegates were in attendance. The delegates debated whether or not Mary Ann Shadd should join them as delegate. Some argued that she has no reason to be there considering her gender and Canadian heritage. However, the article states that when she was on the floor, it was obvious that her intelligence was equal to all others in the room.

A short but detailed report from the Boston Telegraph describes the debate on how to honor Passmore Wilson and his injured family. Frederick Douglass thought the honor should go to some other men who helped fugitive slaves escape from Col. Wheeler, who the article notes was a "villain and scoundrel." 

Written by a southern newspaper, with a large excert from The Bulletin, this article holds a slightly different perspective towards the convention. Instead of merely listing straight facts, the article offers its own commentary on most of the proceedings. The article seems to have a begrudging tone, happily pointing out the “twaddle” of the convention, but also admitting that “most of the members are sensible, practical men” and notes how many well established men are in attendance. The article vividly describes “the letter” incident, where the delegates were so outraged by a pro-colonization letter they suggested burning the letter. The informative article also quickly mention’s Mary Ann Cary’s attendance, and her suggestions about Black agriculture.