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“Mrs. Francis E. W. Harper,” portrait with Frances Harper’s name misspelled, taken from page 748 in The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters… printed by Porter & Coates (Philadelphia, 1872). Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts.

Harper actively traveled and lectured during the Colored Convention Movement giving speeches at the 1858 Cincinnati, Ohio Convention, the 1864 Syracuse, New York Convention, and the 1873 Delaware State Convention. Convention minutes rarely highlight Harper’s participation. Despite her growing fame as a speaker, poet, and activist, when proceedings mention her, they share almost no details about the speeches she gave. We are left to wonder, what exactly did she say? Because the Colored Conventions focus on Black male leadership and delegates, it is not surprising that the proceedings rarely mention the presence of Black women, however active or famous. Still, we can find traces of Harper’s, as well as other Black women’s, participation and speeches by investigating newspaper coverage of conventions and by searching for  additional speeches they gave at the time. Examining related speeches gives us to have a greater understanding of Harper’s influence and legacy while simultaneously providing a model for looking beyond the proceedings to discover more about Black women’s involvement in the movement. This exhibit shares such speeches and newspaper coverage in an effort to find out much more about Harper’s participation in the Colored Convention Movement.