As you can see through advertisements, location within a Convention city was ideal for a boardinghouse owner.

Close proximity to the meeting not only gave them an advantage for attracting business, but also fostered their own engagement with politics. But this was not the only spatiality that mattered. The interior space of the boardinghouse was also significant as a bridge between the gendered spheres of the home and of political engagement.

For the boardinghouses patronized during the Colored Conventions, there is currently very little attributable documentation about the architecture and interior spaces. However, by consulting a variety of contemporaneous sources, we can make educated speculations about these establishments. The interactive floorplan below suggests what the interior spaces of a boardinghouse were like, and what the delegates to the Colored Conventions may have encountered and experienced while staying there.

 Researched and written by Jenn Briggs. Edited by Dr. P. Gabrielle Foreman.

Inside the Boardinghouse

Click Here to View StoryMap

[Advertisement], The Liberator (Boston, MA), May 30, 1835. Accessible Archives. The Liberator. Reproduced by permission. www.accessible-archives.com/

“Boarding & Lodging,” Freedom’s Journal (New York), June 13, 1828. Accessible Archives. African American Newspapers: The 19th Century. Reproduced by permission. www.accessible-archives.com/

[Dr. C. I. Mottley; Mrs. John J. Buckner; Ravenna], Cleveland Gazette, February 2, 1895, 3. America’s Historical Newspapers.

“Genteel Private Boardinghouse.” The Liberator, May 30, 1835. Accessible Archives. The Liberator.Reproduced by permission. www.accessible-archives.com/

Suffrage Convention of the Colored Citizens of New York, Troy, Spetember 14, 1858. https://omeka.coloredconventions.org/items/show/239

A.B. Frost and A. Lindsay (engraver), “L–Look like I ain’t onderstan’ yer good.” 1889. Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-fbfc-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Carla Peterson, Doers of the Word: African American Women Speakers and Writes in the North (1839-1880) (New York: Oxford University Press: 1995)

Caroline Still Anderson, [Letter: date unknown] 2-3. Reproduced with permission courtesy of William Still: An African American Abolitionist Collection, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA.

George Augustus Sala, “Street scene in Philadelphia.” 1882. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. Digital Collections. Accessed May 5, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-b7a4-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Historic American Buildings Survey, “Paymaster’s Quarters, Harpers Ferry, Jefferson County, WV.” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. , http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/wv0161/.

Juliet E.K. Walker, “Boardinghouse Enterprises and Property Ownership,” in The History of Black Businesses in America, 143-146.

Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces (Boston: The Colored Co-Operative Publishing Co., 1900), 143. Digitized by Google https://books.google.com/books?id=BglFAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA103#v=onepage&q&f=false.

National Park Service, “Lockwood House,” Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. https://www.nps.gov/hafe/learn/historyculture/lockwood-house.htm.

National Park Service, “The Niagara Movement,” Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. https://www.nps.gov/hafe/learn/historyculture/the-niagara-movement.htm.

W.E.B. Du Bois, [Interior view of room showing furniture, piano, and chandelier], in album (disbound) Negro life in Georgia, U.S.A., v. 3, no. 287, 1899 or 1900. Daniel Murray Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. , https://lccn.loc.gov/99472388.

W.J. Simmons, Men of Mark; Eminent, Progressive, and Rising (Chicago: Johnson Pub. Co., 1887).