B&W drawing of church

The Mother Bethel AME Church has been located on the same site, 6th and Lombard Streets, since 1794 to the present. Image courtesy of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Richard Allen Museum and Archives, Photograph Collection, Philadelphia, PA.

The gathering of African American leaders from various regions of the antebellum north, held at Philadelphia’s Mother Bethel AME church in 1830, is universally considered to be the inaugural national Colored Convention. For several reasons, the 1830 convention eludes simple categorization; for example, it was not called a “convention” but a “constitution.” Why, then, is it so widely accepted as the foundational meeting for a movement that would last for nearly seven decades? What would it mean to consider it to be a prelude, rather than the first, of many conventions? This exhibit seeks to answer those questions. The exhibit contains three sections discussing this inaugural meeting. The first describes how this 1830 convention relates to the rest of the Colored Convention movement.The second describes the important people, series of events, and lasting documents that brought the convention to life. The third describes the convention itself. What happened? How did this convention lead to so many others? Ultimately, this exhibit shows how this convention both launched–and was fundamentally different from–the many conventions that followed it.

This exhibit includes:

  • Political Rituals and Routines
  • Rules of Conduct
  • Correct Conduct 
  • Women’s Roles 


Color image of a blacksmith shop

History of churches at this location: This first structure was called The Blacksmith Shoppe (picutured here) which was outfitted to be a church. It was used from 1794-1805. The second structure (pictured in opening) was the roughcast church used from 1805-1841. The first AME convention was held in this building in April 1816. The third structure was made of brick and stone and used from 1841-1889. The Fourth (and current structure) was dedicated in 1890. Information courtesy of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.