The Early Case for a National Black Press


The 1847 convention was an eclectic convention. The issues brought before attendees ranged from the establishment of a national press, commerce with Jamaica, abolition of slavery, Black colleges, and agriculture. Boston’s William C. Nell, a reporter, as well as, a delegate to the convention, summed up the convention’s events in this way:

Intelligent men there assembled to enquire what shall be done to extirpate Slavery from the land and elevate the character of its oppressed. Here mind grappled with mind, plans were proposed and their merits discussed; and while discouragements, reported from any locality, awakened sympathy in kindred hearts, the least dawn of success inspired all with a new zeal; pledging their every effort to hasten the day of emancipation.[1]

Nell was one of sixty-six convention delegates. The roll included James McCune Smith, Henry Highland Garnet, and Willis Hodges – to name a few. Also in attendance was Frederick Douglass. He was an active and vocal delegate. His name appears often in the minutes, as he expressed strong opinions about nearly every topic addressed at the Convention.

At the time of his attendance, Douglass was at the final stages of establishing his own paper, North Star. Considering Douglass’ active role at the convention, it is not surprising that the convention and its concerns were featured prominently in the North Star. In fact, the inaugural issue of the North Star in December of 1847 contained a lengthy front-page article on the 1847 National Colored Convention, establishing a conversation between Douglass’ papers and the conventions that would follow.


[1] Nell, W.C. “The Colored Convention.” North Star 3 Dec. 1847.