BEFORE GARVEY! HENRY MCNEAL TURNER AND THE FIGHT FOR REPARATIONS, EMIGRATION AND BLACK RIGHTS
Bishop Turner was committed to the idea and reality of Black dignity. A living witness to the vagaries of slavery, the unmitigated failures of Reconstruction, and the intransigence of violent white racism, Turner knew that African Americans would not be allowed to become full human beings in America. Turner dreamed of, planned for, and worked toward African emigration. Indeed, African emigration was the avowed focus of the popularly known, Turner’s Convention, which he called and presided over. Mobility, in the African American community, has been strongly tied to freedom. Enslavement was immobility or forced mobility writ large. Freedom literally means you could choose to respond to the environment: stay or leave. The compelling needs to migrate inaugurated the first Colored Convention and arguably, therefore, the entire Colored Conventions movement. This exhibit also traces the ways that the idea of emigration and mobility begin and are invoked repeatedly throughout the Colored Conventions movement.
The very first Colored Convention was organized by AME founder and first bishop Richard Allen, who called local and national leaders and community members together to discuss the feasibility of emigration to Canada. African Americans were facing constricting laws around social and economic opportunities for African Americans in the form of Black Codes, social and cultural practices combined with the ongoing explosion of slavery across the Unites States. Delegates—soberly surveyed the present and looking forward—decided that they had to find an alternative to life in the United States. Going west took a very different appeal.
Use the timeline below to read about the ways that the idea of emigration and mobility began and were invoked repeatedly throughout the Colored Conventions movement.