THE FIGHT FOR BLACK MOBILITY: TRAVELING TO MID-CENTURY CONVENTIONS

BENJAMIN B. MOORE

Apart from the minutes that indicate his participation at the 1855 National Colored Convention, very few uncovered documents mention Benjamin B. Moore. An 1862 Philadelphia directory lists him as a brick maker, living at 1446 Apple.1 During the second half of the nineteenth century, African Americans had to compete for jobs with European immigrants. Roger Lane notes, “factory jobs were considered too good for Blacks,” and they “were in practice only in the oldest, non-factory areas, such as brickmaking.”2 Moore was among the many Black Philadelphians who had to take on jobs for which they were overqualified and whose skills and talents were dismissed because of the color of his skin.

Moore’s humble occupation is in stark contrast with his political activism. A well-connected man, Moore was a member of the African Lodge of Philadelphia. A series of masonic lodges for African American men were established in Philadelphia after the African Grand Lodge of Boston issued the first charter in 1798.3 The Second African Lodge, No. 459 built a hall at the corner of Pine Street and Eleventh Street in 1814.4 Moore would attend meetings at the same location. On December 28th, 1862, brethren of the Lodge met there to elect committee members, and Moore was elected to the Committee on Charity.5

Moore did not limit himself to masonic activities. As a young man, he joined John C. Bowers and others to condemn the American Colonization Society. Like his peers, Moore believed that racial uplift could and must be achieved in the United States. In 1853, Moore attended the Anti-Colonization and Anti-Nebraska meeting.6 The meeting discussed the Nebraska bill, which “divided the land west of Missouri into two territories, Kansas and Nebraska” [and] “would allow the settlers of the new territories to decide if slavery would be legal there.”7 The meeting resolved to condemn the bill, pointing out that “no opportunity whatever ought to be given the people in a new territory to declare hereafter as property human rights, who can never be made property.”8 Moore also saw the need for women to participate in the political arena; he was a ticket member of the Anti-Colonization and Woman’s Right Ticket Members to State Council.9 Although Moore’s words are not recorded in the minutes of the meetings he attended, it is clear that he actively fought for the Black community by inserting the Black voice in contemporaneous issues.

Credits

Contributed by Samantha de Vera, University of Delaware.

References

  1. McElroy’s 1862 Philadelphia Directory. Link.
  2. Roger Lane. William Dorsey’s Philadelphia and Ours: On the Past and Future of the Black City in America. (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1991), 63.
  3. John Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott. History of Philadelphia, 1609–1884. Vol 3. (Philadelphia: L. H. Leverts, 1884), 2070. Link.
  4. Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott. History of Philadelphia, 2070.
  5. Committee on Charity
  6. Anti-Colonization and Anti-Nebraska meeting
  7. “Kansas-Nebraska Act.” Ourdocuments.gov
  8. “For Frederick Douglass’ Paper Anti-Colonization and Anti-Nebraska.” Frederick Douglass’ Paper, 7 Apr. 1854. African American Newspapers.
  9. Martha S. Jones. All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture, 1830­–1900. (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 2007), 268.