On this Day:

April 10, 1872: The first  “national convention of coloured men” was held in New Orleans. Among the forty accredited Black delegates were eight men from Virginia: W. N. Stevens, W. H. Trent, Albert Brooks, P. G. Carter, R.G. L. Page, Rufus Morse, William P. Mosely, and John Freeman.

Alonzo J. Ransier, the first Black lieutenant governor of South Carolina, called the convention to order and spoke of the need for such a gathering:

“I know, gentlemen, that there are those among us, white and coloured, who question the propriety or the wisdom of coloured men, as such, coming together in regular convention, to the exclusion of the other race or races, to consider matters relating to themselves … But in my humble judgment, gentlemen, if those who take this position will give themselves sufficient time to reflect—will consider for a moment what kind of government we are living under; the wrongs we, as a class, have suffered for years; the tremendous revolution that has swept over the country within the past ten years; the position in which we find ourselves today, though declared to be American citizens; still labouring without adequate compensation, our education and that of our children almost totally neglected; shut out from decent accommodation at the hotels, places of amusement and in common carriers, and exercising that most valuable of a freeman’s rights, the right to vote as one conscience and judgment may dictate, at the very peril of our lives in many localities, they would see the propriety, they would be at once convinced of the necessity—if they claim to be human and so regard us—of our coming together, being the aggrieved party, that we may bring our grievances before the country and ask for that relief from this condition, and that protection from these outrages, as citizens of this country, which it is its duty to give.”

Interest in the convention was high. The newspaper reported that there were approximately one thousand onlookers— both Black and white, male and female—who “filled the lobby of the hall, thronged the stairways and peopled the sidewalks in front of the building.”

First Some History:

New Orleans was the biggest slave trading centre in the country. In the 1840s, there were about 50 people-selling companies. Some whites went to the slave auctions for entertainment. Especially for travellers, the markets were a rival to the French Opera House and the Théâtre d’Orléans. The St. Louis Hotel slave market and New Orleans Exchange held important markets. There was great demand for “fancy girls”: young, light-skinned, good looking, sexual toys for well-to-do gentlemen.

Late 19th century: Reconstruction and Conflict:

New Orleans served as capital of Louisiana from 1865 to 1880. Throughout the years of the Civil War and the Reconstruction period the history of the city is inseparable from that of the state. All the constitutional conventions were held here, the seat of government  was here (in 1864–1882) and New Orleans was the centre of dispute and organization in the struggle between political and ethnic blocks for the control of government.

During Reconstruction, New Orleans was within the Fifth Military District of the United States. Louisiana was readmitted to the Union in 1868, and its Constitution of 1868 granted universal manhood suffrage. Both blacks and whites were elected to local and state offices. In 1872, then-lieutenant governor P.B.S. Pinchback succeeded Henry Clay Warmouth as governor of Louisiana, becoming the first non-white governor of a U.S. state, and the last African American to lead a U.S. state until Douglas Wilder’s election in Virginia, 117 years later. In New Orleans, Reconstruction was marked by the Mechanics Institute race riot (1866). The city operated successfully a racially integrated public school system. 

Nationwide Coloured Conventions:

However, New Orleans was not the first place to hold Coloured Conventions. The Coloured Conventions Movement, or Black Conventions Movement, was a series of national, regional, and state conventions held irregularly during the decades preceding and following the American Civil War. The delegates who attended these conventions consisted of both free and formerly enslaved African Americans including religious leaders, businessmen, politicians, writers, publishers, editors, and abolitionists. The conventions provided “an organizational structure through which black men could maintain a distinct black leadership and pursue black abolitionist goals.”  Coloured Conventions occurred in thirty-one states across the US and in Ontario, Canada. The movement involved more than five thousand delegates.

The minutes from these conventions show that Antebellum African Americans sought justice beyond the emancipation of their enslaved countrymen: they also organized to discuss labor, health care, temperance, emigration, voting rights, the right to a trial by jury, and educational equality. The conventions significantly increased in number following the Civil War. 

In the early 19th century, national and local conventions involving a variety of political and social issues were pursued by increasing numbers of Americans. In 1830 and 1831, political parties held their first national nominating conventions. Historian Howard H. Bell notes that the convention movement grew out of a trend toward greater self-expression among African Americans and was largely fostered by the appearance of newspapers such as Freedom’s Journal. The first documented convention was held at Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia in September 1830. Delegates to this convention discussed the prospect of emigrating to Canada to find refuge from the harsh fugitive slave laws and legal discrimination under which they lived. The first convention elected as president Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the first independent black denomination in the United States. The idea of buying land in Canada quickly gave way to addressing problems they faced at home, such as education and labor rights.

Philadelphia was the hub of the Coloured Conventions movement for several years before nearby cities such as New York City, Albany, and Pittsburgh also started hosting conventions. By the 1850s, the conventions were extremely popular and multiple national, state, and local conventions were held every year. The conventions attracted the most prominent African-American leaders from across the country, including Frederick Douglass, Charles Bennett Ray, Lewis Hayden, Charles Lenox Remond, Mary Ann Shadd, and William Still.

Following the Civil War which ended in 1865, Coloured Conventions began to appear in the Southern states as well, with one author noting that “we can not deny that the various conventions of the coloured people in the late insurrectionary States compare favourably with those of their white brethren…their resolutions are of an elevated humanity and common sense to which those of the other Conventions make no pretension.” More Coloured Conventions took place in the South during the late 1860s than the entire antebellum period. (As per Wikipedia and https://encyclopediavirginia.org › co…“The National Coloured Convention” in New Orleans)

First, a Story:

“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right.” – Aretha Franklin

Second, a Song:

The Root on YouTube.com created a video: “Racial Segregation and Concentrated Poverty: The History of Housing in Black America”.  They state:

“On Jan. 26, 2021, President Joe Biden signed four executive orders designed to address racial equity in the United States. With one particular action Biden hopes to right the historical wrongs Black folks have faced when it comes to housing and homeownership in this country. Per a White House statement, “He will direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies that have contributed to wealth inequality for generations.” And that’s why the story of what housing and other living conditions look like for many Black Americans is pretty bleak. It’s by design.”

Here is “Racial Segregation and Concentrated Poverty: The History of Housing in Black America”. I hope you enjoy this.


Thought for the Day:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama

Subscribe: The Smile delivered to your Inbox: https://bit.ly/3JniFkq

Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

Leave a Reply