Attendees of Southern Conventions

Compiling delegate attendance data can yield significant results that aid our twenty-first century perspective of a nineteenth-century movement. From this data, we learn that not all delegates who attended conventions in the South were in fact from the South, that the majority of delegates are regular convention attendees, and that delegate attendance at conventions varied drastically. 

Of the 1,053 recorded persons—usually delegates but sometimes honorary members—who attended southern conventions in the postbellum era:

  • fifty-nine attended two conventions
  • twenty attended three conventions
  • three attended four conventions 
  • two attended five conventions

That leaves the majority, 969, only attending one convention ever. Based on these numbers, only eleven percent of delegates to southern conventions ever attended another convention, leaving eighty-nine percent having only ever attended once. This can be better conceptualized in comparison to the broader scope of convention attendance over the course of the entire movement from northern as well as southern states. From that perspective, we see delegate repeat attendance at a rate of seventeen percent, leaving eighty-three percent as one-time convention-goers.

Of the fifty-nine delegates who attended more than one convention, thirty-nine attended their second or third convention in the South while only nineteen attended other conventions in northern states. 170 attended southern conventions as delegates from another state and the majority, 846, attended southern conventions as delegates in their home state. Thirty-six delegate's home states remain unknown because they were in the Army or because the information is left out of the minutes.

It should be noted that the information used to create the graph below is not complete in the sense that the Colored Conventions Project is continually learning of new conventions and locating more minutes. In addition, sources for minutes are not always consistent. For example, our records may be limited to newspaper excerpts alluding to a convention without the published proceedings. Therefore, our graphs demonstrate the number of conventions we currently know about in 2016, drawing delegate numbers from conventions, we have minutes which listed delegates by name.

Hover over this graph to see how many delegates were in attendance at Colored Conventions in the South each year.


The calculations below show the number of delegates to southern conventions, shows which conventions had the highest and lowest attendance rates, and calls attention to women's presence in Black political movements in the nineteenth century. 

1,053 

Total number of recorded delegates to postbellum conventions in the South from 1865-1879.

236

Highest delegate attendance at a southern convention: Georgia State Colored Convention, Macon, 1869

8

Lowest delegate attendance at a southern convention: State Convention of the Colored People of North Carolina, Raleigh, 1865

While women are not listed among the 1,053 delegates, we have records for in this set of conventions. They were undoubtedly enacting social and political change like their male counterparts. 

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While the majority of delegates to southern conventions only ever attended one convention, there are a few prominent figures who attended four and five.  From this set of delegates who attended at least one southern convention, just three attended four conventions while two attended five. The next pages highlight these men and where and when they attended conventions. Interestingly, the three delegates who attended four conventions were residents of southern states: G.T. Ruby from Texas and P.B.S. Pinchback and James H. Ingraham both from Louisiana. The two remaining delegates, George T. Downing and John Sella Martin, were from northern states. Please go to the next tab for a more in-depth examination of these men's roles at the conventions.

Credits

Researched and written by Eileen Moscoso. Edited by Dr. P. Gabrielle Foreman.

Graph rendered by Samantha de Vera using PiktoChart