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Home > Conventions > National Conventions

National Conventions

Starting in 1830 and continuing until well after the Civil War, free, freed and self-emancipated Blacks came together in state and national political conventions. They strategized about how they might achieve educational, labor, and legal justice during decades when Black rights were constricting nationally and locally as well as during the intervening postwar years, before the very promise of a democracy that included all citizens was once foreclosed again. The Colored Conventions movement took place during critical decades which witnessed devastating anti-Black race riots and the growing popularity of the American Colonization Society; the Fugitive Slave Law and the proliferation of derogatory representations of Blacks; the Civil War and Reconstruction; and the return of Black disenfranchisement in legal, labor, and educational spheres in the late nineteenth century. Speakers at conventions responded by calling for community-based action that gathered funds, established schools and literary societies, and urged the necessity of organizing in what would become a decades-long campaign for civil and human rights. The convention minutes collected here illustrate the immense struggles and the profound courage of those who made it a point to organize and stand for what was rightly theirs. 

Most conventions were organized either as state or national meetings, though there were some regional meetings for New England and the southern states, for example. You may also search by region, though these are twenty-first century terms and don't reflect the changing borders of the US in the nineteenth century itself. This collection is preserved in the University of Delaware Library Institutional Repository (UDSpace).

Select a convention to learn more information, to view minutes in a document viewer, or to download minutes in PDF format.

National Conventions

Note to visitors: In most cases, each convention has one primary document associated with it. When multiple documents are available for a convention, they are presented below the respective conventions with indentations.

1830 National Convention of Free People of Colour held in Philadelphia PA

1831 National Convention of Free People of Colour held in Philadelphia PA

1832 National Convention of Free People of Colour held in Philadelphia PA

1833 National Convention of Free People of Colour held in Philadelphia PA

1834 National Convention of Free People of Colour held in New York NY

Address to the 1834 Convention by William Hamilton

1835 National Convention of Free People of Colour held in Philadelphia PA

1843 National Convention of Colored Citizens held in Buffalo NY

1847 National Convention of Colored People and Their Friends held in Troy NY

1848 National Convention of Colored Freemen held in Cleveland OH

1853 National Convention of the Free People of Color held in Rochester NY

1854 National Emigration Convention held in Cleveland OH

1855 National Convention of Colored People held in Philadelphia PA

1864 National Convention of Colored Men held in Syracuse NY

1865 National Equal Rights League Convention held in Cleveland OH

1867 National Colored Convention held in Washington DC

1867 National Equal Rights Convention held in Washington DC

1867 National Convention of the Colored Soldiers and Sailors in Philadelphia PA

Report on the 1867 Colored Soldiers and Sailors Convention

1869 National Convention of Colored Men held in Washington DC

1869 National Colored Labor Convention held in Washington DC

1871 National Convention of Colored People held in St. Louis MO

1872 National Convention of Colored People held in New Orleans LA 

1873 National Convention held in Washington DC

1873 National Civil Rights Convention held in Washington DC (Seeking Records)

1875 National Convention of Colored Newspaper Men held in Cincinnati OH (Seeking records)

1879 National Conference of Colored Men held in Nashville TN

1883 National Civil Rights Meeting held in Washington, D.C.

1883 National Convention held in Louisville KY

1893 National Colored Convention held in Cincinnati OH (Seeking Records)