The Fight for Black Mobility: Traveling to Mid-Century Conventions

Introduction

Palpable in proceedings capturing the 1855 Philadelphia convention are two events that illuminate issues at the forefront of Black political organizing: the controversy surrounding Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s participation (and her outspoken stance on Canadian emigration) and George T. Downing’s rather dramatic suggestion to burn a letter from a colonizationist. Both events take place in the midst of heightened debates about colonization and acute violence targeted at Black neighborhoods across the country. Both of these charged moments feature quite prominently in news coverage of the national convention.

It draws attention to the messages delegates espoused as they moved around the country asking: where do public speakers go and what do they say while there?