Having set the stage in prior posts (here and here), I want to delve a bit into texts from the Civil War/Reconstruction black public sphere. The first I will highlight is the National Convention of Colored Men, held in Syracuse in October 1864.
The Black Convention Movement of the nineteenth century is an important and undervalued source of public debate in the black public sphere. The movement itself arose as part of the abolitionist movement, and a number of important conventions had been held in the north prior to the war. (The Colored Conventions Project at the University of Delaware has a wonderful resource webpage for these conventions here.) Both because it was held as the war’s end was in sight, and because of the issues addressed, the Syracuse Convention of 1864 can be seen as the first Reconstruction black convention. In the ensuing five years many more—local, state, and national—would follow (including the Colored National Labor Union Convention of 1869, pictured to the right), in part as an extension of the civil society movement the Syracuse Convention aided by founding the National Equal Rights League at Syracuse. These leagues, along with Union Leagues, were critical focal points for early Reconstruction black activism and community-building.