Working for Higher Education: Advancing Black Women’S Rights in the 1850s
News Coverage in the White Press
While interracial and Black newspapers provided heavy coverage of the 1853 National Colored Convention at Rochester, the convention was discussed in white newspapers as well.
The Rochester convention proceedings were notable for white audiences near Rochester but also across the Northeast. Newspaper articles on the Rochester convention appeared in the New York Daily Times, The Boston Daily Atlas, The Daily Cleveland Herald, and even smaller papers like Ohio’s The Ripley Bee . Three short articles printed in the New York Daily Times exemplify a typical report of the convention in white newspapers.
The content of the articles are also typical of what appeared in many white newspapers. They compress the convention’s proceedings into a few paragraphs, listing the date, location, and notable attendees, such as Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and James W.C. Pennington—the president of the 1853 convention. The articles concisely summarize the topics discussed and the resolutions reached. The New York Daily Times mentions Frederick Douglass’ address, segregated schools, the National Council of Colored People, emancipation, and activist strategies. The existence of these articles, however brief, reveals that national Colored Conventions were acknowledged even in non-abolitionist white communities.
National Colored Conventions were clearly acknowledged by whites, and sometimes positively. While some publications degraded African American delegates, many articles recognized the intelligent, valuable proceedings of the Rochester convention. Though the article covering the second day of the convention does say the delegates had a “natural aptitude” for “discussing non-essentials,” the overall characterization of the convention—with descriptors such as “practical,” “business-like,” and “earnest”—was one of approval .
The coverage of the 1853 National Colored Convention provided by white newspapers gives insight into the portrayal of Colored Conventions outside of abolitionist circles. While some white newspapers recognized and respected Black organizing in the form of Colored Conventions, others criticized the efforts of free Blacks to assert their rights.
It is also important to note that white journalists and writers—even those with good intentions—were operating within a racist discourse. Therefore, it is not difficult to find articles that affirm their generally white readership’s reductive views on the Black community.
Coverage in White Newspaper
Explore white newspaper coverage of the National Colored Convention at Rochester.
Written by Reilly Torres, History 213 taught by Sharla Fett, Occidental College, Spring 2016. Visualization created by Samantha de Vera, University of Delaware.
 “National Convention of the Colored Men,” New York Daily Times, July 7, 1853. Accessed in ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
 “National Convention of the Colored Men: SECOND DAY,” New York Daily Times, July 8, 1853. Accessed in ProQuest Historical Newspapers.