Prior to 1865, most Colored Conventions took place in northern (nominally free) states. While white terrorism was prevalent throughout northern states, some of these states were more hospitable to Black people than the South, making it easier for Black people to mobilize against slavery and agitate for civil rights. Dena Epstein points out that the growth of independent Black churches was highly restricted in the South, and even Black leaders within white churches were viewed with skepticism. However, in the North, independent Black churches spread during the antebellum era [1]. Though still heavily policed and targeted by white citizens, Black people used churches for social, political, and religious meetings. Churches and halls were therefore crucial sites of activism and community building. This page showcases places where early Colored Conventions delegates and attendees gathered and sang. Click on the tabs below to read more about these sites. 

Cuyahoga County Court House, Cleveland, Ohio

The 1848 State Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, took place at “the Court House,” today called the Cuyahoga County Court House. There, Frederick Douglass, serving as President of the Convention, sang “a liberty song.”

Temple Street Church, New Haven, Connecticut

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Temple Street.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1850 – 1930.

The 1849 State Convention in New Haven, Connecticut, took place at the Temple Street Church, which is no longer standing. The minutes show that, a  “hymn of solemn praise to God,” and “the Doxology” were sung during this convention.

AME Church, Sacramento, California

AME Church in Sacramento, California, where many Colored Conventions were held. Courtesy of California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California.

The 1855 and 1856 California State Colored Conventions were held in Sacramento’s AME Church, and in both conventions, the church’s choir were invited to perform. 

Tremont Temple, Boston, Massachusetts

Detroit Publishing Co., Copyright Claimant, and Publisher Detroit Publishing Co. Tremont Temple, Boston. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.

The 1859 New England Colored Citizen’s Convention was held in Meionaon Hall, the basement vestry of the Tremont Temple in Boston. As part of the proceedings, delegates and audience members sang anti-slavery songs and religious hymns.


[1] Epstein, Dena J. Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folk Music to the Civil War. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977. Print. (p. 192).


Written by Melissa Benbow.

Edited by Samantha de Vera.