National Negro Convention
On August 15, 1843, 75 free Black delegates from non-slave holding states and several delegates from slave-holding states gathered in Buffalo, New York for the first National Negro Convention. Many believed that delegates would discuss the state of freed Black people in America and ignore the topic of slavery. Because of this assumption, freed Black northerners debated on whether or not to attend the convention. Below is a brief outline of the events leading up to, during, and following the convention.
Upon receiving notice of the National Negro Convention, freed Black northerners expressed their discontent. F. Johnson wrote an article that was later published in the Black-owned newspaper, The Liberator,
which captures the common opposition. Johnson wrote on behalf of freed Black Bostonians that Black New Yorkers had “lost their spirit to fight” for what truly mattered: Black liberation.
Like many other Black Bostonians, Johnson believed that the National Negro Convention would focus on the state of freed Black people. Therefore, northern Black abolitionists opposed the convention outright and debated on whether or not to attend it. They decided against attending for two reasons: Black liberation was more important than the state of nominally freed Blacks and they disagreed with the exclusion of women from the convention.
The National Negro Convention began August 15 and ended August 19. During the convention, many well-known abolitionists were among the 75 delegates from free states. Among them were, Charles L. Remond, Frederick Douglass, Theodore Wright, and Henry Highland Garnet. It was there, that Garnet gave his “soul-stirring” speech, “Address to the Slaves of the United States of America.”
Garnet And His Address
Henry Highland Garnet was born into bondage in 1815. He and his family fled to New York in 1825. There, he was educated as a minister and then became active in the Abolition Movement. His speech at the National Negro Convention was riveting and considered controversial by many, including some of the delegates.
Garnet’s speech called for all abolitionists to fight the system of slavery with force and violence if necessary. His speech was the precursor to Malcolm X’s viewpoints which he expressed in his speeches over a century later. Garnet urged all those in opposition of bondage to, “Let your motto be resistance!” He also proposed that the delegates circulate petitions to Congressional officials calling for the abolition of slavery.
Call For Support
Following the conclusion of the convention, the Cleveland Harold
wrote coverage on it. The article stated that unlike common consensus, the convention did not speak about the state of free Black people but was instead about slavery. The editor of the Cleveland Harold
then called upon all liberals and philanthropists to support the efforts of the delegates at the convention.
The National Negro Convention aided in the abolition of slavery. Although freed Black people could have disregarded the bondage of their brothers and sisters, abolitionists like Garnet fought diligently to end their suffering. From the Abolition Movement to the Buy Black Movement, it is imperative that we continue to support one another and reference our history in order to build the future we desire.]]>