Q4. How did the black convention movement help black leaders connect in order to consider the issues facing their communities? Explain the conventions’ agendas and how the black press became a vital element in the growing network of black leaders.
II. Forging a Black Freedom Struggle
A. Building a National Black Community: The Black Convention Movement and the Black Press
. In 1830, the first in a series of gatherings that constituted the “black convention movement” took place in Philadelphia at the Mother Bethel AME Church. Bishop Richard Allen called together black clergy and other leaders to meet about the issues that affected their communities. Forty black clergy responded, from nine states, including the slave states of Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland. They discussed and debated measures that should be taken to advance civil rights for free blacks. The group advocated educational opportunities, promoted economic opportunities (via the development of mutual savings banks and cooperative economic business plans), and emphasized moral and Christian education.
2. In the 1840s, conventions like the one held at Mother Bethel were conducted in other cities, including Cleveland, New York City, and Rochester and Troy in upstate New York. In 1843, two former slaves spoke at the convention in Buffalo, New York. Henry Highland Garnet, minister of the Liberty Street Presbyterian Church in Troy, called openly for a slave rebellion, but Frederick Douglass, a lecturer on the abolitionist circuit, advocated a more tempered course of action. As demonstrated at the convention held in Cleveland in 1848, black conventions unified blacks as a distinct people and provided an alternative black political movement that powerfully declared: “We are as a people, chained together. We are one people—one in general complexion, one in a common degradation, one in popular estimation. As one rises, all must rise, and as one falls all must fall
3. The black press also emerged as an important component of the growing network of black leaders and institutions. In 1827, John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish began publishing Freedom’s Journal, the nation’s first black newspaper. The paper lasted only two years; in 1829 Cornish began publishing another paper, The Rights of All, but that also ceased publication shortly after its first issue. Most black papers only survived with the support and help of wealthy white patrons. Nevertheless, more than forty black papers emerged between 1830 and 1860; these publications discussed black economic, educational, and political opportunities in America. Because papers were passed from one reader to the next, circulation figures are not accurate indicators of their impact on the black community.
4. Frederick Douglass’s newspaper, the North Star, was the most influential black newspaper during the period. Launched in 1847, the North Star attacked slavery and attracted black and white readers alike. The paper featured contributions from well-known writers such as James McCune Smith, who in 1855 argued for race pride: “We must learn to love, respect and glory in our Negro nature.” The North Starcontinued publication in one form or another until 1863.
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