Florida and the Colored Conventions Movement, 1855-1887

Although many Colored Conventions delegates were not born in Florida, many of them called the state home, especially in the Reconstruction and postbellum periods. Prior to the most visible Florida Colored Convention which took place February 5, 1884, African American political leaders of the state like Rev. Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs, James Dean L.L.B., Congressman Josiah T. Walls, Thomas Van Renssalaer Gibbs, and J. Willis Menard, engaged the conventions movement as delegates, like Rev. Gibbs, for many decades. While they did not always represent Florida as delegates, for men like Congressman Wells, James Dean, and Thomas V. Gibbs, their most important political work would be conducted as representatives of the state of Florida. Not only was this a formal political project for the delegates, these connections also trickled into familial relations as well. Thomas V. Gibbs in 1882, at the age of twenty-seven, married J. Willis Menard’s daughter, Alice, and by the 1884 Florida Colored Convention, they both helped to run the Florida News, which, based on a resolution offered during the convention, dubbed it “as the organ and the medium of the independent sentiment of the colored people of this State; and that we recommend it to the cordial support of our people in all sections of the State. “Florida and the Colored Conventions Movement” describes how the Colored Conventions Movement was a pivotal incubator for the development of Reconstruction-era Black Floridian politics.



Further Acknowledgements to the CCP Exhibits team for creating visualizations, editing, and revising this exhibit:

Special thanks to Gale, a Cengage Company and Accessible Archives Inc.® for granting permission for the use of the materials from 19th Century U.S. Newspaper and African American Newspapers: The 19th Century.

The Colored Conventions Project works with teaching partners and their students to create digital content on the rich history of black political organizing in the nineteenth-century. Browse the curriculum and find information on becoming a teaching partner in [CCP in a Box].