The Colored Conventions Movement

Black Organizing in the Nineteenth Century

Edited by P. Gabrielle Foreman, Jim Casey, Sarah Lynn Patterson

392 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 17 halftones, 3 tables, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5426-3
    Published: March 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5425-6
    Published: March 2021
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5427-0
    Published: February 2021
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5920-4
    Published: February 2021

John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture

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This volume of essays is the first to focus on the Colored Conventions movement, the nineteenth century's longest campaign for Black civil rights. Well before the founding of the NAACP and other twentieth-century pillars of the civil rights movement, tens of thousands of Black leaders organized state and national conventions across North America. Over seven decades, they advocated for social justice and against slavery, protesting state-sanctioned and mob violence while demanding voting, legal, labor, and educational rights. While Black-led activism in this era is often overshadowed by the attention paid to the abolition movement, this collection centers Black activist networks, influence, and institution building. Collectively, these essays highlight the vital role of the Colored Conventions in the lives of thousands of early organizers, including many of the most famous writers, ministers, politicians, and entrepreneurs in the long history of Black activism.

Contributors: Erica L. Ball, Kabria Baumgartner, Daina Ramey Berry, Joan L. Bryant, Jim Casey, Benjamin Fagan, P. Gabrielle Foreman, Eric Gardner, Andre E. Johnson, Cheryl Janifer LaRoche, Sarah Lynn Patterson, Carla L. Peterson, Jean Pfaelzer, Selena R. Sanderfer, Derrick R. Spires, Jermaine Thibodeaux, Psyche Williams-Forson, and Jewon Woo.

Explore accompanying exhibits and historical records at The Colored Conventions Project website:

About the Authors

P. Gabrielle Foreman is the Paterno Chair of Liberal Arts and professor of English, African American studies, and History at the Pennsylvania State University.
For more information about P. Gabrielle Foreman, visit the Author Page.

Jim Casey is assistant professor of African American studies, history, and English at the Pennsylvania State University.
For more information about Jim Casey, visit the Author Page.

Sarah Lynn Patterson is assistant professor of African American literature and culture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
For more information about Sarah Lynn Patterson, visit the Author Page.


“Through these essays, the editors masterfully portray the CCP’s aim to realize the linkages of Black intellectual work and social activism that the conventions represented, individually and sequentially, in the 19th century. . . . A must for all students, researchers, and general readers with an interest in Black lives, this essential overview of the CCP’s legacy offers fresh understanding of the history of organized Black activism and commitment to community efforts for equal rights. Highest recommendation.”—Library Journal, starred review

"This collection captures an important piece of African American history. . . . Given that African American history is often difficult to research through conventional resources, the contributors are to be commended for successfully mining unconventional resources, such as the Conventions' minutes and African American periodicals and their advertisements. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice Reviews

“The [Colored Conventions] project serves as a brilliant example of scholarly crowdsourcing. . . . CCP allows us finally to do justice to the overdetermined and multidimensional legacy that nineteenth-century Black activism bequeathed the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”—Early American Literature

"With its historical heft and excellent prose, this book deserves to be the reference book for all things related to nineteenth-century Black activism."--Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Rutgers University

"This collection of essays offers an exciting, original rethinking of nineteenth-century Black political thought that resonates with the justice movements of our own time."--Sharla Fett, Occidental College