This exhibit highlights the contributions of local boarding house hosts and hostesses who provided comfortable spaces for delegates of the 1830s conventions and helped turn their community into a rich hub for activism. It also acknowledges the obscured efforts of women whose livelihoods aided in fostering Black economic mobility—one of the aims of the conventions.

Between 1830 and 1835, five conventions were held in the Philadelphia neighborhood now known as Washington Square West. The role of businesses that supported and promoted the Colored Conventions are often ignored. As we recover and make Colored Conventions materials accessible, we must make sure that we do not disregard the lives of regular individuals who made these conventions and other political meetings possible. The first five Philadelphia conventions tackled and debated collective uplift. Although women are largely unacknowledged in the conventional reading of the minutes, as this exhibit shows, women’s work was crucial in securing the future delegates worked so hard to achieve.


Curator: Samantha de Vera

Edited by P. Gabrielle Foreman and Sarah Patterson.

Further Acknowledgements:

      Denise Burgher for her suggestions and improvements

      Charline Jao, Cornell University, for contributing to the project (see “Daughters and Gentlewomen: The Later Generation“)

      Caleb Trotter for technical assistance

Cover Image A cartoon of a well-off African American couple in Philadelphia by E.W. Clay. Courtesy of  Library Company of Philadelphia.

Special thanks to Gale, a Cengage Company, and Accessible Archives Inc.® for granting permission for the use of the materials from 19th Century U.S. Newspaper and African American Newspapers: The 19th Century.

The Colored Conventions Project works with teaching partners and their students to create digital content on the rich history of Black political organizing in the nineteenth-century. Visit our Teaching Partners page to browse the curriculum and find information on becoming a teaching partner.