Proceedings of the National Council of the Colored People, in New York, New York, on May 8, 9, 10, 1855
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF THE COLORED PEOPLE, IN NEW YORK, NEW YORK, ON 8, 9, 10 MAY 1855
New York Evening Express, 9, 10 May 1855; New York Daily Tribune, 9, 10 May 1855; New York Herald, 10 May 1855; New York Morning Express, 11 May 1855. Other texts in New York Herald, 9 May 1855; New York Daily Times, 1 I May 1855; New York Daily Tribune, 11 May 1855; Frederick Douglass' Paper, 18 May 1855.
The National Council of the Colored People convened at J. W. C. Pennington’s Shiloh Presbyterian Church in New York City during Anniversary Week of 1855 for three days of meetings. The Council, which had problems mustering a quorum at its 1853 and 1854 meetings, attracted nearly a score of delegates to its 1855 deliberations. Representatives came from eight states, and at times, according to the New York Daily Tribune, “many other persons of color, as also some whites,” sat in on the debates. Because New York City hosted the convention and because of the apportionment of state delegates, New York held about half of the voting memberships and most of the honorary memberships on the Council. This preponderant representation of his
home state did not guarantee that Douglass, who interrupted work on My Bondage and My Freedom to attend the meetings, would win support for his positions on the central issues before the assembly. The Industrial College, a manual-labor school designed to train black tradesmen, generated the greatest controversy. Douglass, who had initiated the project two years before, faced objections from George T. Downing, Charles L. Remond, and other Council members that the school was unnecessary, financially impractical, and racially exclusive. Resigned to defeat on the matter, Douglass saw his position prevail after John N. Still changed his mind on the decisive vote. Douglass also secured approval for his resolutions authorizing the calling of a national convention and won a vote of confidence in his newspaper. He left the meetings feeling that they “evinced the dawning of organic life of a people long scattered by ignorance and crushed by slavery and oppression.” William C. Nell, who opposed Douglass on every point during the debates, was equally certain that “the colored people of the several states are not in harmony with the National Council and its proceedings.” FDP, 20 January 1854, 30 March, 25 May I855; New York Herald, 12 May 1855; Lib., 27 July 1855; Howard Holman Bell, “A Survey of the Negro Convention Movement, 1830—1861” (Ph.D. diss., Northwestern University, 1953), 168—78; Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederiek Douglass (1893; New York, 1941), 315—22.
First Day [8 May 1855]
In pursuance of public notice and adjournment, the delegates appointed at the State Convention at Rochester,1The Council was actually created by the Colored National Convention, meeting at Rochester in July 1853. Proceedings of the Colored National C onvemion, Held in Rochester. July 6th, 7th and 8th, 1853 (Rochester, 1853), 45-46. sometime since, to represent the colored inhabitants of the free States, for the advancement of the interests of the race, met at Dr. Pennington’s Church, in Prince Street, corner of Marion, yesterday morning (12 M.), for the purpose of taking into consideration the ways and means of carrying out the objects above indicated.
Dr. J. MCCUNE SMITH, of New York, presided, and GEORGE T. DOWNING,2George T. Downing (18I9—1903) was the eldest son of Thomas Downing, a well-known black restaurateur in New York City. After an education at the city's segregated Mulberry Street School and at Hamilton College, he worked in his father's business until 1855, when he opened a hotel in Newport, Rhode Island. Downing was active in the Underground Railroad and led a successful effort to integrate Rhode Island public schools. He supported Douglass in the public controversy with Henry H. Garnet over the merits of the latter's African Civilization Society. In 1859 Downing presided over a convention of New England blacks that gave a qualified endorsement to the Republican party. During the Civil War, Downing moved to Washington, D.C. and became manager of the House of Representatives' restaurant. In February I866 Downing was the chairman of a committee of blacks, including Douglass, who held an interview with President Andrew Johnson during which the chief executive urged his audience to abandon their advocacy of black suffrage. Lib., 20 July I855; New York Weekly Anglo-African, 19 September 1859, 21 April I860; NASS, 24 February 1866; Cleveland Gazette, 12 September 1885: New York Times, 22 July 1903; Benjamin Quarles, Black Abolitionists (New York, 1969), 145. 150. 190. 218-19; James M. McPherson, Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and and Reconstruction (Princeton, N.J., 1964), 343-46; William J. Simmons, Men ofMark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising (1887; New York, 1968). 1003—06; Guichard Parris, “George T.Downing." NHB, 5 : 42 (November 1941); Rhoda G. Freeman, “The Free Negro in New York City in the Era before the Civil War" (PhD. diss., Columbia University, 1966), 46, 49—56; Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston. eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York, 1982), 187—88. of Rhode Island, acted as Secretary.
There were present the following members: New York—Fred. Douglass, Philip A. Bell, Ed. V. Clark,3Edward V. Clark worked as a bootmaker and by the 1850s had become a jeweler in New York City. During the annual meeting of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1852, Clark charged that the organization's white officers, particularly Lewis Tappan, refused to hire blacks for responsible positions in their business firms. Clark attended the 1853 and 1855 National Negro Conventions and while serving on its Council opposed the establishment of a black industrial college. Clark also was active in the New York Society for the Promotion of Education Among Colored Children, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and the Radical Abolitionist party movement. FDP, 27 May 1852, 5 May, 6 July 1855; New York Radical Abolitionist,1 : 6—7 (August 1855); American Abolition Society Records, 11 July 1855, ()(); Martin Robison Delany, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States (Philadelphia, 1852), 106—07; Jane H. Pease and William H. Pease, They Who Would Be Free: Blacks' Search for Freedom, 1830—1861 (New York, 1974), 85; Mabee, Black Freedom, 293; Freeman, “Free Negro in New York City,” 272—73, 282, 297, 353, 386. James E. Brown, John N. Still,4John N. Still of Brooklyn, New York, combined reform activities with a career as a self- employed tailor and clothing retailer. Still attended the 1853 Colored National Convention in Rochester and during the same year delivered an address welcoming Douglass to Brooklyn. Later, he won praise from Douglass for being a leading supporter of Frederick Douglass' Paper. Although apparently not a writer, Still gained some reputation as an intellectual. In 1856, after he moved to Shrewsbury, New Jersey, the commissioners of the National Emigration Convention, led by Martin Delany, named Still an editor of the projected scholarly journal, Afric-American Quarterly Repository. FDP, 17 December 1852, 6 May, 10 June I853; Proceedings of the Colored National Convention, 1853, 5, 25; Floyd J. Miller, The Search for a Black Nationality: Black Emigration and Colonization, 1787—1863 (Urbana, Ill., 1975), 166; Victor Ullman, Martin R. Delany: The Beginnings ofBlack Nationalism (Boston, 1971), 182; William H. Smith, Smith's Brooklyn City Directory for 1854 & 1855: Being a General Directory of the Inhabitants and a Street and Avenue Guide (Brooklyn, 1854), 461. Stephen Myers,5Stephen Myers (1800-?) of Albany edited temperance and antislavery newspapers and helped lead the movement for black suffrage in New York. Born into slavery in Rensselaer County. New York, but emancipated in 1818, the self-educated Myers joined two other Albany blacks in producing the Northern Star and Freeman's Advocate in 1842 and 1843. In addition to acting as the general agent for that temperance and antislavery paper. Myers in 1842 launched the Elevator, his own irregularly issued abolitionist publication. He later edited the North Star and Colored Farmer, which ceased publication in 1849, and the Voice of the People, a prosuffrage paper launched in 1858. As competing editors, Douglass and Myers occasionally clashed, but their relations were generally cordial and the two exchanged friendly visits. Like Douglass, Myers lectured frequently at antislavery and temperance meetings in New York and New England. He attended the National Negro Conventions in 1847, 1855, and 1864 and was probably the leading black figure in New York state politics in the 1850s. ln 1852 Myers, William H. Topp, and George T. Downing visited New York's governor to lobby against any appropriation of state funds to the American Colonization Society. In 1858 his Voice of the People encouraged those blacks who met the state's property qualification to vote for Republicans rather than
for Gerrit Smith or other Radical Abolitionists. During the Civil War he recruited Union troops. I. Garland Penn, The Afro-American Press and Its Editors (Springfield Mass., 1891), 48—51; Quarles, Black Abolitionists, 33, 95, 154, 172-73, 219–20; NS, 2 February, 29 June 1849; NASS, 9 October 1858; Albany Northern Star and Freeman's Advocate, 3 February 1842; George Rogers Howell and Jonathan Tenney, History of the County of Albany, N.Y., From 1609 to 1886 (New York, 1886), 725; Martin E. Dann, ed., The Black Press, 1827—1890: The Quest for National Identity (New York, 1971), 19–20; Proceedings of the National Convention of Colored People, and Their Friends, Held in Troy, N.Y., on the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th October, 1847 (Troy, 1847), 3; Proceedings of the Colored National Convention, Held in Franklin Hall, Sixth Street, Below Arch, Philadelphia, October 16th, 17th and 18th, 1855 (Salem, N.J. 1855), 3, 6; Proceedings of the National Convention of Colored Men, Held in the City of Syracuse, N.Y., October 4, 5, 6 and 7, 1864; with the Bill of Wrongs and Rights and the Address to the American People (Boston, 1864), 4. James McCune Smith; Rhode
Island—Geo. T. Downing; Illinois—John D. Bonner;6Although the name is rendered variously in New York City newspaper accounts, the delegate is almost certainly James D. Bonner (?–1855), whose presence Douglass notes in his discussion of the meeting. Bonner, a Chicagoan, attended the Rochester convention in 1853, where he was named an original member of the National Council. He presided over the Council's second meeting in July 1854 in Cleveland, Ohio. There he agreed with Douglass that the Council should continue to function and that the decisions of an earlier, sparsely attended session in New York should be ratified. Active in aiding fugitive slaves, Bonner once joined another Chicago abolitionist in sending Douglass a “huge and highly finished cane" inscribed “A Terror to Kidnappers." FDP, 25 November 1853, 21, 28 July, 1 September 1854, 25 May, 14 December 1855; New York Evening Express, 9 May 1855; New York Daily Tribune, 9, 10, 11 May 1855; Proceedings of the Colored National Convention, 1853, 25, 46. Pennsylvania—Stephen Smith, Franklin Turner.7Franklin Turner, a Philadelphia abolitionist, headed the Committee of Fifty that invited Douglass to speak in that city in 1854. Turner was not an original member of the National Council. His only reported attendance at a national convention was in 1855, when the meetings were held in his home city. On that occasion he served as temporary secretary and as a member of the business committee. In 1860 Turner wrote a public letter condemning emigration that was used by George T. Downing and Charles L. Reason at a New York City mass meeting considering Henry Highland Garnet's African Civilization Society. FDP, 1 December 1854; Proceedings of the Colored National Convention, 1853, 46; Proceedings of the Colored National Convention, 1855, 3, 8; Lib., 4 May 1860; Bell, “Negro Convention Movement." 234. Honorary Members—Wm. H. Topp,8William H. Topp (c. 1812-57), a successful Albany merchant tailor who described his ancestry as German and American Indian as well as black, was a prominent figure in New York’s black convention movement. An agent for the Colored American, Duffin signed the call for the convention in Albany that called for the removal of special property qualifications for black voters. He attended the national convention in Troy in 1847 and subsequent National Negro Conventions held during the 1850s. Although an opponent of colonization, Topp joined Douglass in helping to raise funds for a domestic agricultural and lumbering settlement in 1849. During the same year he was among the first to support Douglass's proposal to form a National League to represent the interests of black Americans. An early associate of Garrison, Topp later supported the Liberty party. At party conventions in 1852 he spoke in support of Free Soiler John P. Hale and the Free Democracy and against Gerrit Smith's Radical Abolitionist faction. Delany, Condition of the Colored People of the United States, 102; Quarles, Black Abolitionists, 21, 104, 172, 211, 219; NS, 18 February 1848, 2 February, 7 September 1849; FDP, 10 September, 15 October 1852, 13 October 1854; Lib., 18 December 1857, 8 January 1858; NASS, 19 December 1857. James W. Duffin,9James W. Duffin (?-1874) of Geneva, New York, was a longtime supporter of the Negro convention movement. An agent for the Colored American, Duffin signed the call for the convention in New York State in 1840. He served as a secretary at the 1843 national convention at Buffalo and as a vice president at the convention in Philadelphia in 1855. During the latter year Dufﬁn was a member of the board of managers of the New York State Suffrage Association. Douglass, who reported a clash with “a recreant black man, by the name of Dufﬁn" in a speech given near Geneva in 1849, apparently had softened in his attitude toward Dufﬁn by 1855. Items in Frederick Douglass' Paper of that year describe Dufﬁn as “indomitable” and as an “esteemed friend." Duffin emigrated to Haiti in about 1861 but returned to Geneva before his death. FDP, 30 March, 14 September 1855; NS, 9 March 1849; San Francisco Elevator, 18 May 1874; New York Colored American, 6 June, 15 August 1840; Minutes of the National Convention of Colored Citizens: Held at Buffalo, On the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th of August, 1843 (New York, 1843), 8, 20; Proceedings of the Colored National Convention, 1855, 6, 8; Miller, Search for a Black Nationality, 245. N.Y.; Dr. Pennington, N.Y. Several others were also present.
The meeting being duly organized, the President, Dr. MCCUNE SMITH, delivered the following address:
Gentlemen—You are assembled to fulfill the duties imposed on you by a convention of the colored people, assembled at Rochester in July, 1853. By which convention you were duly appointed “for the purpose of improving the character, developing the intelligence, maintaining the rights, and to organize a union of colored people of the Free States.”
The hundred and seventy thousand souls who compose the free colored people ofthe Free States, occupy a position in regard to human progress, of greater importance and responsibility, than any like number of individuals on the face of the globe. The great question of human brotherhood is brought to a direct test in our persons and positions; the practicability of Democratic institutions—their ability to overcome the last vestige of tyranny in the human heart; the vincibility of caste by Christianity; the power of the gospel; the disenthrallment of their millions of bleeding and crushed slaves,—all these issues lend their weight and rest their decision very greatly, if not entirely, on the free colored people of the Free States.
This weight of responsibility is enough to make men shrink therefrom.
But we cannot avoid it, if we would. The inﬂuence of our land and its institutions, reach to the utmost part of the earth, and go where we may, we will find American prejudice or at least the odor to contend against. It is easiest, as well as manliest, to meet and contend with it here at the fountain head. We cannot affect these great issues by inactivity; the case is going on, whether in labor or not, and our inactivity will only help to decide it against us and them, and these principles which it would seem the providence of God that we are set apart to uphold.
Although we may not readily see it, our position is not a hopeless one, it is a field of promise. It sometimes happens in great moral as in great physical battles, that certain divisions of men by simply maintaining a fixed position, even without striking an active blow, will conduce to the victory. In like manner, by simply maintaining our numbers, and our senses, and our Christianity, under the waves of oppression and practical infidelity that have vainly beaten against us, we have done our appointed service in the land where we dwell.
But the hour has come for us to take a direct and forward movement; we feel and know it. Just as in 1817 there was a spontaneous movement among our brethren of that generation, with one voice to oppose the colonization movement, within the year 1855, throughout the length of the land, do we feel roused to take an active and energetic part in the great question of liberty of slaves.
We are awakened as never before to the fact that if slavery and caste are to be removed from the land we must remove it ourselves; others may aid and assist, if they will, but the moving power rests with us.
Gentlemen, the direction of this newly awakened power rests with you. Untrammelled by any of the influences that curb or straighten other benevolent or political organizations, you may bring forward, discuss and adopt such plan of movement as may seem best.
One or two primary considerations are all I will mention. First, it is important that you thoroughly organize all the colored people—we cannot spare the aid of a single man or woman, or minor capable of thinking.
Then you should adopt means to lay your plan of organization or co-operation before every individual among your people. This can be done by the agency of lectures and the press. We must distinctly keep before the people the fact that our labors consist in something besides the declaration of sentiments; we must act upon what we declare, and so closely does oppression incompass us that we can act constantly in behalf of our cause
by simply maintaining for ourselves the right which the laws of the land guarantee to us in common with all citizens.
From the mere act of riding in public conveyances up to the immediate and entire abolition of slavery in the slave states, the laws of the land and the Constitution of the country are clearly on our side, and that man is a traitor to liberty and a foe to our humanity who maintains, or even admits, that we or any other human beings may be held in slavery on account of the color of their skin, or for any reason short of the committal of crime.
And from the mere act of riding in public conveyances up to the liberation ofevery slave in the land, do our duties extend, embracing a full and equal participation, politically and socially, in all the rights and immunities of American citizens.
If these our duties are weighty, we have the means to perform them; our cause is inseparably wrapped up with every general reform moving over the land.
(Freedom, hand in hand with labor,
Walketh strong and brave;
On the forehead of his neighbor
No man writeth slave!)10 From the New York Daily Tribune, 9 May 1855.
The States which have legislated in behalf of the Temperance Reform, have also made movements towards recognizing our rights as citizens thereof. But efforts on our own part have helped towards this good result; in Massachusetts, mainly by efforts of some colored citizens, one a member of this Council, the last vestige of caste in public schools has been abolished. In Connecticut, on the petition of her colored citizens, led by a member of this Council, both houses of the Legislature have done their share towards granting us equal suffrage, and the Governor has recently strongly recommended the same. In New York, through the efforts of a member of this Council and of the President of our State Council, aided by the moving eloquence of another member of our Council, the popular branch of the Legislature passed a vote in favor of equal suffrage, a vote for which during the past twenty years we have petitioned and struggled in vain. In Pennsylvania, a strong and able effort has been made to obtain the Franchise by our colored brethren, and not without some signs of success.
Even [in] Illinois, hitherto covered with deeper infamy in caste than any other State, there are signs that the labors of her intelligent and energetic colored citizens have not been in vain. Gentlemen, these cheering and grand results have followed the almost isolated labors of less than a hundred colored men. I had almost said of five; what may we not do, if we receive the hearty, earnest and steady cooperation of ten-thousand such men. If a hundred colored men have struck these blows under which slaveocracy reels and staggers, how easily will ten-thousand overthrow that atrocious system?
We have the men and the spirit, and a favorable public sentiment; let us address ourselves to the work of organization. The time is come when our people must assume the rank of a first-rate power, in the battle against caste and slavery; it is emphatically our battle—no one else can fight it for us, and with God’s help, we must fight it ourselves. Our relations to the anti-slavery movement must be, and are, changed. Instead of depending upon it, we must lead it. We must maintain our citizenship and manhood in every relation, civil, religious, and social, throughout the land. The recognition of our manhood throughout this land is the abolition of slavery throughout the land.
One of the means of elevation left in your care by the Rochester convention, is an Industrial School, and a plan by which our rising youth may rise above menial employment for mechanical and mercantile occupations.
The accomplishment of both these objects [is] within our ability. Among the wants we labor under as a class, there is not the want of money. We do not even have our proportionate numbers occupy the alms-house of the free States. During the profound distress which existed during the past winter, we were not in any degree the distressed or starving class. And statistics will be presented to this Council showing that, as a mass in the free States, we occupy a middle position between the rich and the poor. Not only could the hundred-thousand free colored people of Pennsylvania and New York easily establish and richly endow our Industrial School, but I could name two men among us who could do it without sensible loss to their abundance of means.
The Industrial School would, like the rest of what we do, be our own movement, done by our own means. We will make both character and reputation in establishing it.
We have, therefore, gentlemen, a cause, and the men and the means to
occupy it in; may you be endowed with true wisdom for the accomplishment of the great purpose for which you are now put together.
Mr. BELL, of New York, suggested that before the address delivered by the Chairman be printed, it would be well for the reporters to be reminded of one other proof of success on the part of the colored race. In one of the country towns of Ohio a colored man has been elected as Town Clerk.
The Chairman explained that it had been so much a matter of feeling for the man personally that he had not felt authorized especially to quote it as an attendant success on the exertions of any body of men,—the man in question is or was at the time of his appointment the only colored man in that place.
Mr. Stephen Myers then moved “that members of the various State councils who might be present be admitted as honorary members of the national council during its sessions, and that they be allowed to take part in all discussion, without, however, the right to vote.”
The motion was unanimously adopted and the roll called, when the members above mentioned were found to be present.
On motion, Messrs. Fred. Douglass of New York, James D. Bonner of Illinois, and Franklin Turner of Pennsylvania were appointed a committee to report the order of business.
In reply to a question of Mr. Wm. H. Topp of Albany, the President stated that the following States have under the constitution organised State councils, having in view the object of the Convention:—New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, lllinois, Michigan and Rhode Island.
Mr. STEPHEN MYERS again rose and said: Mr. President, I would call the attention of this Council to the poor representation of the free States, wherein exist members of this organization. Why is this? Because, sir, there is a want of actual labor,—a scarcity of energy. To remedy this, I would suggest that agents be employed at this convention to travel through the States, to represent us in our true light, to form bodies co-operating with us for the redemption of our race; look, sir, at the unexampled success of the Know Nothings wherever they are known,—where have they not got together councils? And what has brought this about? Simply their employment of agents.
Mr. F. DOUGLASS, Chairman of the business committee, reported progress. He said: Mr. President and members of this Council, the business committee beg to report that they have not any matter prepared for the
council, and in consequence of which they have nothing to present unless it be the pleasure of the council to listen to the report from the manual labor committee, which I am glad to say is prepared and in the hands of Mr. Bonner. . . .†Here the New York Evening Express reads: “Mr. JOHN D. BONNER then presented the report, of which we present the following summary:—
Owing to a combination of circumstances unavoidable and unexpected by us, we have been prevented from making any successful efforts towards establishing the contemplated school: but we are not without hope that a well devised and rigorously prosecuted plan of operation for the future, may be crowned with success. and we may be able to establish on a firm basis such an institution where the colored youth may acquire a thorough as well as mechanical education.
Among the causes preventing success, have been the inability of the agent (F. Douglass) to travel, to solicit donations and dispose of stock in said school, and the stringency of the times.
We recommend to the council the appointment of three agents, who shall be fully empowered to travel and solicit aid—one each for the Eastern and Western States, and one for Europe."
(Mr. BONNER, on behalf of the Manual Labor School Committee, presented the following report:
The Committee on [the] Manual Labor School appointed at the first meeting of the National Council, held in the City of New-York in November, 1853, beg to make the following report: Owing to a combination of circumstances wholly unavoidable and unexpected by us, we have been prevented from making any successful efforts toward establishing the contemplated school, but we are not without hope that a well-devised and vigorously-presented plan of operation for the future may be crowned with success, and that we may yet be enabled to establish on a firm basis an institution where the colored youth of our country may acquire not only a thorough education, but at the same time receive such mechanical instruction as will fit them for useful members of society and enable them to pave their way to the most honorable and independent position known to American citizens. Among the many causes which have retarded our success in this noble and cherished enterprise, the inability of our appointed agent, Fredk. Douglass, Esq. to travel and solicit donations and dispose of stock in said School, has been one of a serious and hurtful character; but the greatest obstacle in the way of our success has been the extraordinary stringency in money matters, which has prevailed throughout the country for the last twelve months. Any attempt to collect money during the above period for purposes of benevolence would, in our humble opinions, have been fruitless. When we look around we find we are not alone in backwardness in raising funds with which to start our proposed institution. We
find that the People’s College of New York, which was proposed some time before our own and upon principles similar to ours. is also languishing for the want of means to carry it forward. At the present time the prospects seem more auspicious, and we confidently believe that something may be done by proper and well-directed efforts toward the consummation of our wishes. It requires no labored argument to convince our friends of the great necessity of an institution like this; they must already be satisfied on this point. We want an institution that will be looked up to with feelings of pride and satisfaction by our own people; and looked at and inspected by the world. In conclusion, we recommend to the Council the appointment of three agents who shall be fully empowered to travel and solicit aid—one for the Eastern, and one for the Western States. and one for the Continent of Europe. All of which is most respectfully submitted.
JAMES MCCUNE SMITH, J. O. BONNER,
JOHN PECK.11John Peck (?— I885), agent for the Liberator, Emancipator, Weekly Advocate, and Colored American, was a self-employed barber in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, who later worked as a clothier, restaurateur, and wigmaker in Pittsburgh. After 1847 Peck is also identified as a minister. He presided at the State Convention of Colored Freemen in Pennsylvania in 184I and attended nearly all of the National Negro Conventions held between 1831 and 1864. The Rochester convention of 1853 named him an original delegate to the National Council. During and after the July 1854 meetings in Cleveland, Ohio. Peck sided with Douglass in disputes within the National Council. From 1849 until 1854 Peck sat on the board of trustees of Allegheny (Pa) Institute, a school designed to train black teachers and ministers. After 1857 he briefly urged emigration as a solution to the problem of black Americans. Peck secured a place on the executive committee of the Church Anti-Slavery Society of Pittsburgh in 1860 and became vice president of the National Equal Rights League in 1864. Quarles, Black Abolitionists, 20, 26, 33, 110, 231; NS, 25 August I848; New York Weekly Advocate, 7 January 1837; New York Colored American, 4 March 1837; FDP, 27 January, 28 July, 1, 8 September 1854, 30 March 1855; Cleveland Gazette, 5 December 1885; George H. Thurston, Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Cities. . . . for 1865—‘66 (Pittsburgh, 1865), 281; Bell, “Negro Convention Movement,“ 19; New York Principia, 11 February 1860; Proceedings ofthe Colored National Convention, 1853. 6, 46; Proceedings of the National Convention of Colored Men, 1864, 29; Ullman, Martin R. Delany, 18, 31 , 41—47. A. O. BEEMAN,12The delegate was actually Amos Gerry Beman (1812—74), an antislavery and protemperance minister born in Colchester, Connecticut, who served as a member of the National Council from that state., not from Vermont as reported later in the proceedings. Denied regular admission to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, Beman studied privately with a white student until, threatened with physical violence, he left for Hartford, where he taught briefly in a black school. In 1835 he studied at Oneida Institute. Three years later the Congregational Hartford North Association accepted him as a licensed candidate for the ministry, and in 1841 Beman became the first settled black pastor of the Temple Street African Church in New Haven, Connecticut. Like his father, Jehiel C. Beman, he combined preaching with active participation in several reform movements. At the founding convention of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1840. Beman filled the post of assistant secretary. and in 1844 and 1845 he served as president of Connecticut‘s black temperance society. In 1843 he presided at the National Council of Colored Citizens in Buffalo; twelve years later, at the Philadelphia convention, he was again in the chair. In the interim he led an unsuccessful campaign for black suffrage in Connecticut and held numerous convention offices. The Rochester convention of 1853 named Beman as an original delegate to the National Council. His speech defending Douglass's plans for an industrial school and the legitimacy of the Council, given at the Cleveland meeting in 1854, caused Douglass to comment that “we have seldom heard Mr. Beman more happy or more impressive. “ In 1858 Berman resigned his New Haven pulpit, partly in response to pressures generated by his marriage to a white woman after the death of his first wife in 1856. A succession of scattered and brieﬂy held jobs in New England and on Long Island followed. After the Civil War he engaged in Presbyterian mission work among Tennessee freedmen and served short ministries in Baltimore, Maryland, and Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Throughout his later career Beman maintained a New Haven residence, and in 1872 he served as chaplain of the Connecticut Senate. FDP, 28 July, 8 September, 13 October 1854; New York Daily Tribune, 9 May 1855; Lib., 26 September 1856; Cleveland Gazette, 2 February 1884; New Haven (Conn.) Palladium, 15. 16 May 1888; Robert A. Warner. “Amos Gerry Beman. 1812—1874: A Memoir on a Forgotten Leader,” JNH, 22 : 200—21 (April 1937); David O. White. “Hartford's African Schools. 1830—1868,” Connecticut Historical Societ Bulletin, 39 : 48—49 (April I974); Quarles, Black Abolitionists, 46, 68, 79, 112; Patrick C. Kennicott, “Negro Antislavery Speakers in America” (PhD. diss.. Florida State University, 1967). 58—61; Proceedings of the Colored National Convention, 1853, 46.
JOHN JONES,13John Jones (1816—79), often referred to by contemporaries and the press as the “most prominent colored citizen of Chicago," was the freebom son of a free mulatto mother and a German named Bromfield. A native of Greene County, North Carolina, Jones was later apprenticed to a Tennessee tailor. Jones worked until he could save $100, then moved in 1841 to Alton, Illinois, and married Mary Richardson, whom he had met in Tennessee. In 1845 the couple moved to Chicago, where Jones taught himself to read and write and where he set up a tailor shop that catered primarily to whites. A successful businessman, Jones owned property worth an estimated $85,000 before Chicago's Great Fire of 1871. He lectured throughout Illinois, stressing economic success and social integration as fundamental goals for black advancement. He was vice president of the 1853 Colored National Convention held in Rochester, New York, and participated in the Illinois Colored Convention of 1856. Jones's speaking took on added fervor in 1853, when he fought laws discouraging black migration to Illinois, and again in 1864, when he led the successful ﬁght for the repeal of Black Laws. Jones's home was a way station for the Underground Railroad and a meeting place and guest home for fellow abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass and John Brown. In 1871 Jones was elected to the Board ofCommissioners of Cook County, serving for four years. Lib., 18 May 1860; Chicago Tribune, 12 March 1875, 22 May 1879; Allen H. Spear, Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto. 1890—1920 (Chicago, 1967), 6, 55, 77, 107, 111; Harold F. Gosnell, Negro Politicians: The Rise ofNegro Politics in Chicago (Chicago, 1935), 81—82, 111; Arna Bontemps and Jack Conroy, They Seek a City (Garden City. N.Y.. 1945), 28—36; DANB, 366—67. FRED. DOUGLASS)14From the New York Daily Tribune, 9 May 1855.
Mr. FRED DOUGLASS then rose. He said—Mr. President. I rejoice to ﬁnd that the members of the committee have bated no jot of their interest in that enterprise—that they are still alive to its importance and are here to press its claims on this council, and through you to the country. I am not at all disturbed by the thinness of our numbers here to-day—it may look
preposterous that our insignificant force should compete with the multitude around so opposed to us; but I think I was not more hopeful at the meeting of the National Convention than now, that ultimate success will at least crown the ends that we propose,—that is, the change of our present relations with the human race, the uprising of our people from the menial offices they now fill to the rank of industrials of the country to the position of mechanics of the country.
I do not rise to make a speech, but I must—I shall be allowed—to say that this measure proposes one of the most practicable and most efficient ways for our improvement, as a race, that has yet been suggested. It is opposed, however, where we expected the greatest amount of support. Regretting this as I do, and regarding it as a drawback as I do, if it shall be instrumental in rousing in this council a determination that this plan shall succeed, it were ten thousand times better that it should succeed with their opposition than with their favor, better for us if it shall be successful in the manner named in your address, sir, than that we received ten or even one hundred thousand dollars in aid of it from any other source than that intimated by you. I hope we shall consider the claims of this college of industry.
I regret to know that we are not all united on the necessity of such an institution. I have found among ourselves some opposition to the establishment of such a school. I hope that if there be in this council here to-day a single doubt of its necessity and practical utility, that it will be submitted, with the reasons therefor, that we may hear and investigate the subject with care; that not doing aught in haste we may be convinced of its use—its practicability—its necessity, and go away from our session fully and firmly united in this great effort for the amelioration of our condition...†Here the New York Evening Express reads: “Dr. PENNINGTON, of New York, followed, in terms of high commendation of liberal and wide extended education. He had, by the system of proxy, been often instructed at Yale College, but that although it fed his mind, did not give him all. He was not an admitted student—his name appears nowhere on the records. If then Yale and Harvard, or New York will not let us participate in the higher walks of education, let the colored race by themselves, and for themselves, establish such an institution. He insisted that the report would be adopted, and go forth with the stamp of unanimity. He believed the day [had] arrived when the colored race ought to have an
institution of their own, like as the German, the Irish, the Yankees and the Englishmen.
Mr. W. H. TOPP enquired whether any estimate was yet before the committee as to the expense and location of the institution proposed.
The PRESIDENT stated that the committee had published in [Frederick] Douglass' Paper the probable expense at $30,000."
(Dr. PENNINGTON believed that the party or church in this country that shall present to the public the best plan for the education of the masses will be the dominant party for the next fifty years. He went for the education, not only of the colored but of the white people also; whether separate or together it mattered not, so long as the essential end—the education of the whole people—was arrived at. If it be necessary that a separate institution should be established for the education of colored children, why, let it be started and upheld. Family schools, infant schools, grammar schools and universities were needed for the colored people, and he hoped they would be established; they would be, and if the colored people would only be united it would be accomplished. He hoped the principles of the report would be carried out.
Mr. TOPP inquired if any conclusion had been arrived at about the cost of establishing such a school.
Dr. SMITH—The requisite foundation fund would be $30,000.
Mr. TOPP was not opposed to this project; but he said he had to answer a great many questions about its practicability, and would like to know what prospect of success the Committee had before them.
EDWARD V. CLARK of New-York differed from Mr. Douglass in regard to the cause of the opposition manifested by the colored people to the proposed school. The Manual Labor School never could develop any degree of perfection in mechanical or agricultural education among its pupils. At Oberlin, Oneida, and elsewhere this fact had long since become apparent. And if they established it, what white man would teach colored children a trade? How could such an institution be self-sustaining? What would the $30,000—not the first cent of which had been collected—amount to? He would suggest that social communities ofcolored people be established, so that the mechanic arts could be nurtured within their limits.)15From the New York Daily Tribune, 9 May 1855.
Mr. STEPHEN MYERS followed. He said,—One of the necessities put forth in favor of this enterprise is the prejudice of the white men. Sir, we have mechanics amongst us as well as amongst them. You need not go to the white man for instructions how to labor. We have our mechanics—our tailors—our doctors—our divines—and, I need not say what you have or have not. We have men endowed with all the faculties of the white race. We are not now as we were in the years 1825 or 1826, when our brethren met in an old church, now unknown to—unremembered by any here, if I
except only one. We are now amongst and of the enlightened—we live in an enlightened age. Would it not be well for us to now establish a college and industrial schools where to educate our children? When we look back on 1826,—where were the men that could lead a school? A few such individuals were then only scattered here and there, but now we have our men who can reach all departments of education, our orators that can cope with any—our editors of wide repute—had I had the advantages in my early life that are now presented, I would not be here to-day,—I would have ventured even to the lands of the sunny south. and there I would have sought the elevation of my fellow man. You say that you have to send your sons to the white man. I contend that it is hardly so; we have all the trades among us that we want to educate them in,—even now only the franchise prevents our sending our representatives to the Legislature, and we could send such men as would do us and the world credit—for with us we have men who could wield the highest executive power better,—aye much better than does President Pierce this day.
Mr. FRED DOUGLASS again rose. He said—Sir; I think that the original idea entertained by the Convention for our proposed school, was not to make it, strictly speaking, an educational institution, after the pattern of the collegiate establishment at Oneida; or, indeed, of any existing institution in the country, or in any other part of the world. I believe that there is one, somewhat on the same plan as that proposed by the Convention, somewhere in Germany, and that [is] the only one of modern origin. I know little of its history, but I heard from Mrs. Stowe that there was one such institution there; therefore, the comparison of this proposed institution to those mentioned, is hardly pertinent or fair. It is not so much means to educate the people, as to induce in them habits and inclinations of industrial competition. The proposers, as also the supporters of the establishment of this institution, have been met with the objection that there are already facilities sufficient for our necessities; that we do not need additional facilities for teaching our children the useful trades; and that ground was by some distinctly taken at Cleveland. The question for us then, is this: Have we in this country, at this time, the facilities necessary for the mechanical education of our children? If the workshops of our land are flung open to receive the children of those of sable hue; if you or any of us can carry his boy with success to the door of the workshops of the land, with even the hope that he will be admitted, then we need no such institution. Is there the door open by which we can escape our present menial callings, to those of mechanics? If so, if there be any method by which we can be thus elevated, surer than by
the establishment of the industrial school, let us know it. If there be no such facilities—if it be not equal to our necessities, we have some ground to go forward on for this school.
I have heard it said that there is in this city, and throughout the country, institutions where the colored lad can obtain all knowledge of mechanics, as well as we could teach him in a school for the purpose. If so, there is no necessity for its establishment in New York. I have also heard that there are here sufficient colored master mechanics to give this instruction to our youth. If so, we have no need of such a school, but I know, for my own section of the country, that there are not those facilities,—that there are not the open doors, ﬂung open wide to our children, and I must say that, so far as my own office is concerned, I have a difficulty to introduce a colored boy in my own office, where there are white men.
In regard to the exclusiveness of this school, I think it is not according to the original idea that it is to be exclusive—that it is to be a colored school exclusively. If it be so, as I understand it, it will be such not through our fault, but through the fault ofthose who, by their prejudice, are kept out, or feel no necessity of it.
The white children may feel that their opportunities are now all sufficient—that there is no objection to the acceptance of their youth into the workshops of the day, and no necessity, consequently, of sending them to an industrial school of the colored men, but it will not be our fault if it is thus made exclusive.
Is it practicable? Is there money enough come-at-able? Is there willingness and means that can be made available for the establishment of such an institution? I think as to whether there is money enough among us to establish it, depends almost entirely on our own will,—if there be a will for an institution. If we feel the necessity of such, and determine that it shall exist, I will guarantee that the money shall be forthcoming. Be it five, ten, twenty, or thirty thousand dollars, it can be had; if we are willing to have it for the purpose. What we need now is to get into the righteous state of willingness to have this establishment, and as to the expense, this will depend much on the amount of will that we bring to the labor. If we bring to the establishment of it a small amount of willingness, we shall bring but a small amount of means. I believe that it could be commenced on five thousand. It is a small sum in view of the rich endowment of Antioch and other colleges, but with five thousand dollars the work could be begun. We may not have more than one branch of mechanics at first, but let us begin somewhere.
Mr. JAMES W. DUFFIN of New York, followed:—If it can be established with five thousand dollars, would it not be better to establish a school of the kind in each state? But it struck me that it would take somewhere nearer one hundred thousand dollars. It seems to me that there is not so much difficulty in getting our children into mechanics’ shops as is supposed; in western New York, I do not know of any trade that the colored children cannot be instructed in. We can get all our children into the best workshops and into the public schools. So far as my experience has gone, I think that places might be attained to learn all the various branches of mechanics. I would not, however, sir, be very tenacious on it, for there are better judges here than myself. It is a subject well worthy of consideration, whether it is practicable to carry it out.
The failure of Oberlin and Whitestown [Whitesboro] was not caused by the attempt to blend mechanics with the classics; it was the permission of such members as could afford to work or not as they took choice, the admission of a sort of lily-fingered aristocracy, which degraded the labor whence income should be derived, and drove the poorer and more substantial students hence.
I might go on: there was an argument advanced, which I think entitled to some respect, that it will be impossible to bring our youth into such institutions, to compete successfully, with less isolated work; but the answer to this is, “let us try it on.”
I do not see, why the boy cannot be instructed as thoroughly, as in the workshop, where he is too often kept behind to serve his master, in not the most advancing, but the most useful branch of the business. . . .†Here the New York Evening Express reads: “Some other speakers then offered a few remarks, after which Mr. GEORGE T. DOWNING, of Rhode Island, said: I do not see clearly the practicability of this scheme. Mr. Douglass has stated that the will is all that is wanted—there is the rub! There is actually not interest enough in the matter to carry it into effect. I believe there is no necessity for it, and that conviction has been strengthened by the remarks of to-day.
Some further remarks were offered, pro and con, after which the Council adjourned for recess."
(Mr. AMOS G. BEMAN of Connecticut took his seat.
Mr. TOPP of Albany was of opinion that taking this State through, and the States of Ohio and Massachusetts as a whole, the colored children could not get an opportunity to learn mechanical trades, and if they could learn, they could get no opportunity to labor, on account of the antipathy of the white journeymen. In his own shop the white journeymen tailors who worked for him struck against his employing colored men. Mr. Topp believed that there is a grave necessity for the establishment of such a
school. The fact is, the most opposition is met with from the so-called friends of the colored people, who say, why, you who are so strongly opposed to caste schools, and caste distinctions, are about to start such a school yourselves. To meet this, we inform them that the caste distinction, if any, is on the part of the whites; our Council have resolved that no such distinctions shall exist among us.
Mr. GEO. T. DOWNING was not able to see clearly the practicability of this plan. There is, and the truth must be spoken, too much apathy on our part. We might, if we pleased, find plenty of opportunities of learning trades and working at them afterward. He enumerated many instances in proof of his position. The only argument that could be advanced in favor of this school was that it might tend to induce colored people to feel the necessity of educating their children to trades. The natural tendency of proscriptive measures is depressive. An instance of this kind is shown by the schools of Worcester, where, at the wish of the colored citizens, a separate school was started, and failed. Such, he thought, would be the fate of the Manual Labor School.
Mr. STEPHEN SMITH of Philadelphia said that most of the colored mechanics in Philadelphia had received their education in the South; and he knew that the colored people of the City of Philadelphia could not obtain opportunity to learn mechanic trades. But wherever a colored man understood a trade, he was sustained in Philadelphia; and Mr. Smith hoped the Report would be adopted.
Dr. PENNINGTON thought that the colored people ought to do their part in educating men with the whites; the white people established schools for black and white—why should not the colored people start schools andworkshops for white and black?
Mr. J. E. BROWN of Elmira instanced several colored workshops and workmen in Elmira, where white and colored were employed; in many cases colored mechanics were unable to get colored boys to learn their trades. He believed that colored mechanics could always find employment.
Pending the debate the Council adjourned to 7 1/2 P.M.)16From the New York Daily Tribune, 9 May 1855.
The convention again met for the transaction of business at 7 o’clock. The President on taking the chair called the meeting to order. He then announced
the receipt of a telegraph dispatch, from Mr. John Peck, of Pittsburgh, as follows: “Ready to leave—took sick—call the next at Pittsburgh.” The communication was ordered on file.
The role being called, the members present at the morning session all answered to their names. The following members were present and took their seats: New York, James E. Brown; Connecticut, Edward V. Clark; Massachusetts, W. C. Nell and Charles L. Remond, John M. Langston,1717. John Mercer Langston (1829-97), educator, lawyer, diplomat, and U.S. congressman, was born in Louisa County, Virginia, to a white planter and his mistress, an emancipated slave of black and American Indian ancestry. Orphaned at an early age but possessed of a substantial inheritance, Langston grew up in Ohio, graduated from Oberlin College (1849), and, in 1854, gained admission to the Ohio bar under a precedent allowing certain rights to “a colored man who is nearer white than mulatto or half-breed." A year later he won the office of town clerk in Brownhelm and with it the distinction of being one of the first blacks to hold public office in the United States. He later held elective posts in Oberlin. During the late 1840s and the 1850s he and his older brother Charles were active in the black convention movement in Ohio. At first a colonizationist, Langston shifted his emphasis to campaigning for black education and suffrage. He also spoke at temperance and antislavery functions and helped to found and finance the black Ohio State Anti-Slavery Society, of which he was president from 1858 to 1861. Long sympathetic to the strategy of direct resistance advocated by David Walker and Henry Highland Garnet, Langston supported rescues of captured fugitive slaves and recruited volunteers for John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry. During the Civil War he recruited black troops, opposed discrimination in the army, headed the National Equal Rights League, and successfully defended Edmonia Lewis, later a noted black sculptor, in a celebrated poisoning case at Oberlin College. Langston was inspector general of the Freedmen's Bureau in 1868 and a leading proponent of loyalty to the Republican party at conventions of the Colored National Labor Union in 1869 and 1871. From 1869 until 1876 he was a professor of law and dean at Howard University. Appointed minister to Haiti in 1877, Langston held diplomatic posts until 1885, when he returned to Virginia as president of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute in Petersburg. In 1888 he won a disputed congressional election in Virginia's Fourth District, defeating a white Democrat and a white Republican in a race that was ultimately decided by the House of Representatives. Douglass opposed Langston's candidacy as tending to split the Republican ranks. FDP, 5 February 1852, 16 June, 28 July 1854; Cleveland Gazette, 5 December 1885; ASB, 16 August 1856; DM, 5:850 (August 1863); Quarles, Black Abolitionists, 176; Proceedings ofthe Colored National Convention, 1853, 5, 46; Geoffrey Blodgett, “John Mercer Langston and the Case of Edmonia Lewis: Oberlin, 1862," JNH, 53:201-18 (July 1968); John Mercer Langston, From the Virginia Plantation to the National Capitol (Hartford, 1894), 440; William Cheek, “A Negro Runs for Congress: John Mercer Langston and the Virginia Campaign of 1888," JNH, 52:14-34 (January 1967); idem, “John Mercer Langston: Black Protest Leader and Abolitionist,” Civil War History, 16:101-20 (June 1970); Philip S. Foner and Ronald L. Lewis, eds., The Black Worker: A Documentary History front Colonial Times to the Present (Philadelphia, 1978-), 2:39, 76, 94; Proceedings of the National Convention of Colored Men, 1864, 29; DANB, 382-84; DAB, 10:597-98. the newly elected (colored) clerk of Brownhelm, Ohio, was also present.
Mr. FRED. DOUGLASS then presented the following resolution from the business committee:
Whereas, Long years of oppression and slavery have debarred colored
youths from getting a practical knowledge of mechanical science, and [have] doomed them to menial avocations for a livelihood, and,
Whereas, A bitter and persecuting prejudice against colored people, (peculiar to our Republican community), stands, as with drawn sword, ready to strike down the aspiring colored youth, the moment he advances towards the work shop, with a view to attaining a responsible trade, and,
Whereas, The only escape from degradation for our people in this country is to be found in a renunciation of the position of a servile class, and in turning our attention to education, productive industry, and to a practical knowledge of mechanical sciences,
Therefore resolved, That it is the first business ofthis Council, charged with the duty of looking after and promoting the well-being of the colored people, to establish means whereby our youth may no longer be deprived of becoming useful, honorable and lucrative tradesman.
Resolved, That as one means to this important end the Council reaffirm, and that they do hereby approve of, the plan for an industrial college, which has been reported by the proper committee, and which has during a period of twelve months or more been regularly published in Frederick Douglass' Paper, and that they in furtherance of the same object adopt the second report submitted to them by the committee on industrial colleges.
Mr. BONNER then rose—l have been hopeful for some action on the part of the colored people—they have too long depended upon the white folks for aid. I have listened to remarks of gentlemen from New York, who have stated that every opportunity existed for the colored youth to advance themselves—I have not seen youths so situated; I am obliged to discredit these statements; in the Western country I know we have not such advantages, but I believe we there have as liberal a people as here. I think we need such an institution—if prejudice alone exists here it tends to depress our youth. I hold that the state of our children would be better advanced by learning more immediately imparted by ourselves.
Mr. FRED. DOUGLASS followed—I hope that this matter will pass, and notwithstanding the urgency of other matters, I would have this matter more fully discussed. Nothing has yet been said of the business part of that report, relative to the appointment of agents. I think had these been in the ﬁrst place selected, we should ere this have been of one mind regarding the enterprise. We have been without efficient assistants, and because it has been so is the reason that now we are as we are. I take it that if we shall ever here command respect we must begin to think for ourselves, to understand
our own rights and wants, and have a thorough determination to have and maintain them. We are now the “sick man” of the country, we are under the hands of certain doctors, who think they have the placing of us,—the superior race of the South think us entitled to 8 pounds of bacon and a bushel of corn meal with the husks in it per month, and here at the North, our white friends—not our friends but our fellow citizens—have a regard for us—like us very well in our places,—and they have selected our places for us, and they have marked out the boundary lines for us,—and while we remain in the narrow circumference that they describe for us, we are “good fellows,” and they pat us on the head and say we are good boys.
The speaker then went on to show the similarity of the colored race to that of the Turks in the present European war, 18The Crimean War.—defeat would be degrading, but success with such allies still more debasing. He thought that if the council would dignify labor in the eyes of the race, it would make those at present careless “toe the mark,” and if the movement ends in a failure, despair must be kept off, and the motto be—“try, try again.”
Mr. GEO. T. DOWNING rose—I feel timid in attempting to oppose the gentleman who just sat down. I do not see the matter as he sees it; on the ends we agree; but as to the practicability of the plan we differ. It has been here positively asserted to-day that there are more opportunities for colored youths than colored youths to accept them. There is for this the testimony of Mr. Brown, Mr. Duffin, and of many others. I volunteer my own
The question is, will gentlemen of the opposition tell us that colored youths have been refused, and if not, can we say that we have been refused admission? ls it right? In this very city I know of a case where a colored boy can be employed as a printer, but one could not be found. With these facts staring us in the face, must we not feel the humility? But if they are facts, do we not see the absolute absence of all want of this institution? But this plan is not practicable. It cannot be started, as stated, for $5,000. It would be of great cost.
Mr. Stephen MYERS then rose. Reiterating his former sentiments, he continued—We must work with confidence, the one with the other, standing on a rock. You will hardly get a supper of oysters for which you will pay in this city. Does this look like open doors? I doubt whether 25 colored boys can be found in places of note, learning mechanical trades. Go to the Abolitionists, and you cannot get your son, even with his collegiate education,
placed above a porter. There are no better friends to the colored man than themselves. I know even of the case of William Carr, of Broad street, that even he, an Abolitionist steamboat owner, would not hire one of our most respectable young men.
Mr. DUFFlN—I hope that report will not be adopted: I feel we are not yet prepared for its passage; 1 have been convinced of this by the speeches this afternoon. It has not appeared that one rejection has been made. I live in the pro-slavery county of New York. The Abolitionists have abandoned our ground to the heathen, and there, out of 300 colored people, I can get any colored youth from one to twenty, into any educational institution, from the blacksmithing to an entrance into Hobart free college.
I do not go to abolitionists,—l do not believe they are more ready to do us good than others. Where is the necessity ofestablishing such an institution as is proposed, when we are assured it will fail for want ofpatronage. It will surely fail for want of encouragement from our own people; the youth are not prepared to enter under such tuition. That Illinois should not be free I can conceive. I believe the head and front of Nebraskaism comes there-from, and it is a God-forsaken soil altogether as far as freedom goes. . . .†“Here the New York Evening Express reads: “Mr. WILLIAM J. WILSON and Mr. STEPHEN SMITH spoke in favor of the proposition."
(Mr. WILLIAM WILSON of Brooklyn said it had been argued that the children of the colored race are not prepared for such a movement as is contemplated; it is then obvious that they must be prepared, and how is this to be done? Such a school as the one in question would be a nucleus around which colored children could gather and be indoctrinated with such a spirit of enterprise as they never before felt, and as would enable them to achieve independence. The majority of the colored people themselves speak contemptuously of all enterprises set on foot by colored men, and lend their hearty cooperation and favor to all movements in which white men are concerned. He felt, and he wished his fellow-colored men could adopt the same views, that ifthey would rise to a position of respect they must act for and respect themselves.
Mr. SMITH of Philadelphia spoke in favor of the report, and offered examples of the difficulty attending the efforts of school children to obtain trades.)19 From the New York Daily Tribune, 10 May 1855.
Mr. JOHN N. STILL—l consider the plan impracticable. No one has undertaken to show us how our children would be engaged after learning
these trades, and so I think that the adoption of the report at present would be premature—we want to open avenues of business for those who now know trades.
Mr. JOHN D. BONNER followed, and said—From the remarks of Mr. Downing and others it would be understood that there exists no prejudice in the United States against our race. Now, I live in Chicago, and there, I think, exists less prejudice than anywhere else in the Union, and even there it amounts almost to an impossibility to enter colored boys into workshops. I have myself tried this. Even Mr. D. Walker, the upholsterer, the great radical Abolitionist, would not take my nephew to learn the trade because the men in his employ would not allow a colored man to work with them. I applied to others, and the answer was universally the same in substance. . . .†Here the New York Evening Express reads: “Dr. J. MCCUNE SMITH then vacated the chair, and said—Nearly every one who favors this report are, or have been, mechanics, while the opposition are not so composed; and so it is with us a feeling ofexperience of the advantage of training that urges us to this question. One thing has been forgotten in this discussion. It is not only the learning of a trade—agriculture is a part of the instruction of the school, and I venture to assert that if we could afford five hundred young men to a course of instruction, to become scientific agriculturists in ﬁve years,—with that knowledge we should do more to elevate ourselves than by any other mode of expense.
If the workshops of the country are open to-day, they were twenty-five years ago. I know that then, as now, trades could be got; but if so, are the colored people mechanics? No!—but you say it is desirable, well, then, why not try this plan? and let us throw out this stimulus, and see how quickly young colored men will endeavor to advance themselves from the position of scientiﬁc dishwashers. We have tried your plan- now my own, if you please.
Is not this school practicable? Gentlemen, we have to do impracticable things. We must sing, as sings the Black Swan,—we must write, as writes Dumas,—speak, as Douglass speaks,—before we are acknowledged. We have to struggle harder to be on the level of society than those already there. The impracticability of this measure is one of its choice features, in my mind; but I think it to be practicable; for make it a fact before the free colored people, and you will find that you will gather up the mass of public sympathy, which now can find no real vent. for our benefit."
(Mr. BONNER took the Chair.
Dr. SMITH said nearly every gentleman who advocated this industrial school had been or was a mechanic, and those who opposed it had never been engaged in any mechanical avocation. In his youth he worked for four years as a blacksmith, and could speak of the good effects of mechanical training. This plan did not merely contemplate the teachings of a mechanical trade, but other things would be taught—scientiﬁc agriculture for instance. If they could only throw into the resources of the country in five years five hundred scientific and practical agriculturalists they might soon take into their own hands the agricultural interests. The Legislatures of all ofthe States are mostly composed of farmers—not the best educated many
of them. Well, if the Colored School could furnish well-educated farmers, they could furnish the legislators too. Without such a stimulus as this school you say our people have had the opportunity to learn trades, and they have not embraced it; why not try our plan—why not see what this stimulus will effect? He continued: There is no use in further holding these Councils and passing ﬁrst-rate resolutions, unless we do something tangible and show our people what may be accomplished. It is said this plan is impracticable. The colored man must do impracticable things before he is admitted to a place in society. He must speak like a Douglass, write like a Dumas, and sing like the Black Swan before he could be recognized as a human being. We must start this school and make it work. In illustration of how easy it is for a colored man to learn a trade I will give you an instance: There is a colored boy at work in the foundery of Mr. Norris, in Philadelphia, who, with a common jack-knife, cut out a perfect model of a steamboat, and painted its name upon the side without being able to read it afterward. Some gentlemen in Baltimore interested themselves in the young genius, and I went around to every foundery in this City to get him a chance to learn the trade, but could not, and he was about to be sent to Manchester, England, to learn the trade, when his case attracted the notice of Mr. Norris of Philadelphia, who, despite the opposition of the men in his employ, gave him a place in his foundery, and the lad, notwithstanding that the men refused to show him how to do anything, is rapidly becoming a skillful workman. The case of Mr. Meakin, another colored man, who learnt his trade at the South, and is now in the Novelty Works, is another argument on that point. He only obtained the situation by sheer accident, and the white men struck as soon as he was introduced into the workshop, and refused to work with him. Only the firmness of Mr. Allen, who discharged them one and all, overcame the prejudice. This is a sample of the ease with which colored mechanics can get ahead in this country. He concluded by exhorting the Council to adopt the Report.)20From the New York Daily Tribune, 10 May 1855.
Mr. GEO. T. DOWNING rose and said: In support of what I have advanced, I need to bring up a dark picture of our own shortcomings. Mr. Mason of my city will accept any man, and he is an inﬂuential man. As regards the boy spoken of that was not received, there were good reasons for his rejection other than his color. This is true elsewhere even on the leading journal. I contend that where competent boys and men are presented, they will be presented. Your boys do not apply for situations; there are
places left vacant even for twenty-five years, which colored boys might get. . . .†Here the New York Evening Express reads: “The question was then taken, when the report was adopted by a majority of two.
The Council then adjourned, to meet again at 3 P.M., on Wednesday."
(Mr. DOWNING, after citing numerous instances of the indolence of the colored people when opportunities for advancement were presented to them, asked, would the people whom the delegates represented back them in supporting this college? How many of the delegates present would have their expenses paid by those they pretend to represent? (The Chair called the speaker to order.) Mr. Downing continued: We are a set of paupers, relying upon charity and any menial occupation that may be thrown in our way; the fault is entirely with ourselves. We must educate ourselves from birth up before we root out this servile spirit of dependence.
Mr. BELL opposed the establishment of the Manual Labor College, contending that the whole plan was impracticable, and had been proved to be so at Oberlin, Oneida, and Central Colleges, and everywhere else. Even in Prussia, where Labor Colleges are largely endowed by the Government, they have not been self-supporting. The colored people had frequently made efforts to establish educational institutions and always failed, and they would not succeed in this.
Mr. MYERS hoped the question would be put.
Mr. DOUGLASS hoped that if they voted down this proposition the Council would remember that they decided that it was proscriptive for the colored people to make any effort to elevate themselves; that they were incompetent to do anything to help themselves; the fiat had gone forth from the central organ at Boston that all efforts to elevate the free colored people while Slavery existed in America are useless. He expected to see the school voted down, and should say no more.
CHAS. L. REMOND of Mass. held that what the colored race most wanted in this country was equal rights in the community, a fair ﬁeld and no favor. This he believed the Anti-Slavery party would afford him. And with such a field he did not need any such school as the one proposed. The great want was a public sentiment recognizing the colored man as an American citizen. Whatever position the colored race had attained to in this country was due to the efforts of the Abolitionists, and whatever they had to hope for would be through their assistance, and he was not preparing to turn his back upon them.
The PRESIDENT, in putting the question on the report and resolutions,
said if the report was voted down the project would still be open for consideration by the Council. The vote was then taken as follows:
AYES—Frederick Douglass, S. Myers, Franklin Turner, S. Smith, J. N. Still, James D. Bonner, J. McCune Smith—7.
NAYS—George T. Downing, P. A. Bell, James E. Brown, Edward V. Clark, W. C. Nell—5.
The Chair decided that the report and resolutions were adopted.
The Council then adjourned to 3 1/2 Wednesday P.M.)21From the New York Daily Tribune, 10 May 1855.
Second Day [9 May 1855]
In pursuance of adjournment, the delegates composing the National Coun- cil of the Colored People of the United States met yesterday afternoon. There were present the following members:
New York—Fred. Douglass, Philip A. Bell, Ed V. Clark, Jas. E. Brown, John N. Still, Stephen Myers. James McCune Smith.
Rhode Island—George T. Downing.
Illinois—John D. Bonner.
Vermont—Rev. J. W. Lewis,22John W. Lewis (?—l86l), a well-traveled black minister and reforme,r. was at this time residing in St. Albans, Vermont. Lewis, a Free-Will Baptist, had previously lived in Providence, Rhode Island, and in Concord, New Hampshire. He first achieved a measure of prominence in 1835 by leading several spirited revivals at Union Meeting House in Providence and helping to gather a Free-Will Baptist congregation there. During the next year Lewis founded the New England Union Academy in Providence and participated in efforts to organize black temperance organizations in New England. A frequent contributor to Frederick Douglass' Paper, Lewis was chosen an original member of the National Council by the Rochester Convention of 1853. He later became an emigrationist and led a colony of black migrants to Haiti,bwhere he died. Robert Glenn Sherer, Jr., “Negro Churches in Rhode Island Before 1860," Rhode Island History. 25 : 21—23 (January 1966); Lib., 20 August 1836; Albany Northern Star and Freemen's Advocate, 8 December 1842; FDP 5 May 1854, 12 January, 27 April 1855; Proeeedings of the Colored National Convention, 1853, 45; Miller, Search for a Black Nationality, 245; Peter M. Bergman and Mort N. Bergman, eds., The Chronological History of the Negro in America (New York, 1969), 159. Amos G. Beman.
Honorary Members—Wm. H. Topp, James W. Duffin, W. J. Wilson, Dr. Pennington, N.Y. Many other persons of color, as also some whites, were present.
Dr. JAMES MCCUNE SMITH presided in the Chair.
The minutes of the meeting held on Tuesday (as reported by us yesterday) were read and approved, whereupon, on motion of Mr. Bell, it was resolved that a committee of three be appointed as a Finance Committee.
The following preamble and resolutions were then submitted by Fred. Douglass from the Business Committee, for adoption:
Whereas, A period of two years has elapsed since the last general or national convention of Colored Americans was summoned to convene in the city of Rochester, in the State of New York, and,
Whereas, The results of said Convention have proved highly beneficial in laying the foundation of a plan of union and co-operation among the oppressed for their mutual improvement and elevation, and,
Whereas it is very desirable that this Council should be brought often in contact with and under the influence of the constituents, and,
Whereas, it is believed, that such a revision of the present constitution of the Council can be made, as will remove all hinderance to general adoption by our people, and render it more efficient as an instrumentality in our elevation and improvement, and,
Whereas, The duty of calling national conventions of our people devolves upon the national council, therefore.
Resolved, that a Committee of — be now appointed to draw up a call for a national convention of colored people to be held in the city of — , State of —, on the — day of October, 1855.
Resolved, that the moral improvement and social elevation of the free colored people at the North is the efficient means of promoting the emancipation of the slaves at the South, and that this council finds it impossible to repose confidence in the genuineness of that Abolitionism which, while it denounces slavery at the South, scouts as delusive and hurtful, all schemes for the moral and social elevation of the free colored people at the North.
Some discussion then arose upon the motion as proposing to call a national convention of colored people at New York, when an amendment prevailed adopting Philadelphia as the place of the meeting.
Mr. STILL rose to enquire if it was not in the province of the council to revise the constitution and to promulgate it without the necessity of involving the expense, both of time and money, consequent upon calling people away from their homes and business.
FRED. DOUGLASS rose to support his motion. As I understand it, the revision of the constitution is but one intention of the call. It is but a sorry commentary on the energy and interest of the colored people of the United States, if they cannot get together at least once in two years. I should be glad, in view of the good results that have followed the convention held in Rochester, to have a national convention at least once a year. I know of no
more judicious or wise expenditure of money than in conventions in behalf of our people,—that at Rochester left a lasting impression for good on that city, and if we come up to it in the spirit which I think will be the case. I cannot, nor do not, doubt it would result in much good; besides this good, I think that our constituents would be better satisfied, in having a hand in anything that may come up there, than if the Council itself should effect all the labor. The convention made the constitution, and it is my opinion that it should be left to them to make any necessary amendments.
Mr. BELL in opposition, followed—I see no other object stated for the calling of this convention than the revision of the constitution. I consider, sir, that if our State Councils are regularly organized,—if that portion of the business which was laid out by the Rochester convention is well done, and attended to as it should be, then we should have no need of any national convention, other than this Council, which in fact is, itself, in its own sphere, a national convention.
(Mr. Langston, (colored), Town Clerk of Brownhelm, Ohio, on entering, was admitted as an honorary member of the council.)
The question was then put, when Mr. Nell begged to be excused. Some discussion ensued as to the validity of his reasons. He was, however, so excused.
The motion was adopted, when it was also resolved that the time of meeting be appointed for the third Tuesday in October (16,) next. The Chair then appointed Messrs. W. J. Wilson, J. W. Lewis and Stephen Smith, as a committee of management.
The President then announced the following persons appointed on a committee on finance:—Messrs. W. J. Wilson, Wm. C. Nell, and Stephen Smith.
Mr. NELL objected to serving. He said: My reason is, that it seems to me that this meeting is called, not in accordance with the constitution.
The President ruled the speaker to be out of order, he having appeared in the Council and having voted on questions without protest.
Mr. BELL—Sir, I am going to make a motion and then oppose it; I move, sir, that Mr. Nell be excused from serving on that committee,—I wish to bring the matter up before the Council. Mr. Nell, last evening, requested to be excused from voting without giving any reason, and I believe without being asked for any,—he was not then excused, and he voted; he is therefore committed to all intents and purposes to the action of this Convention. Again to-day when called on to record his vote, he gives an excuse which I consider as not valid, because if he had conscientious scruples this afternoon he should have made them known last night, or is it
a new thought,—was his objection last night based on one idea, and this
afternoon on another. . . .†Here the New York Evening Express reads: “Some further discussion ensued, which on a vote resulted in retaining Mr. Nell on the Committee."
(Mr. NELL said he had made up his mind not to come to this Council, but met a friend in the street, who seduced him into the Council. The vote last evening was given under protest.
Mr. DOWNING wanted to know if Mr. Nell claimed to be a member of this august body?
The CHAIR stated that the question was whether Mr. Nell should be excused from acting on the committee.
Mr. DOUGLASS was opposed to his being excused. Let Mr. Nell vote with us or leave us; it is important to know who are with us and who are not.
Mr. WILSON believed that Mr. Nell’s scruples were in regard to the illegality of this convention. It was not that his sympathies were opposed to them, but it was certain scruples which operated on his mind.
THE COUNCIL LOOKS DARK AND STORMY
Mr. MYERS—If Mr. Nell is to represent Massachusetts, let him do so; if not, let him resign.
A vote was taken on excusing Mr. Nell from acting on the Finance Committee. The result was nine nays and three ayes. Mr. Nell was not excused.
Several members, after this decision was rendered, held a meeting around the stove.
The Chair told them that they must take their seats; no caucus meeting could be held there.
John Jones, of Chicago, Ill., was appointed as an agent to collect funds for the purpose of erecting a national colored school.
Mr. Douglass was nominated as agent for the East, but begged to be excused. Members felt delicate on voting, and he was obliged to give a reason for declining the honor.
ORGANS OF ABOLITIONISM
Mr. MYERS stated that it was but just that they should excuse him. He had enough to do with his paper, which they could not do very well without. True, they had the Tribune, Evening Post, and the Albany Evening Journal, but their help was nothing to Fred[erick] Douglass’ Paper.
Mr. Douglass was excused.
John W. Lewis was nominated for the East, but beg[ged] to be excused; he wanted to know what they considered East?
The CHAIR—All that land East of Ohio.
Mr. LEWIS objected to such a large field of labor.)23 From the New York Herald, 10 May 1855.
It was then on motion of Mr. Douglass referred to the Committee on [the] Manual Labor School, to appoint agents for the collection of funds and sale of stock for the benefit of such institution.
Dr. J. MCCUNE SMITH then vacated the Chair in favor of Mr. Bonner, and offered the following resolutions:
Resolved, That the National Council of the colored people recognize in Frederick Douglass' Paper a true, earnest, and thorough-going advocate of the colored people, free and enslaved, throughout this land; and while we regard its continued and punctual issue every week during the last eight years, as an evidence of its safe and permanent establishment, we nevertheless call upon all our people, and all friends who feel an interest in our cause, to take the paper itself, and urge others to do so, for a wide circulation of the same is one of the best instrumentalities to overcome caste and slavery.
Resolved, That this Council respectfully tender the tribute of their gratitude and admiration to Miss Julia Griffiths, the literary Editor of Frederick Douglass' Paper a lady who has, with singular devotion and rare ability, during five years past, devoted her entire time and attention to her special department of this paper, without thought of reward, thereby quietly, but most efficiently, contributing to advance the cause of humanrights in our land.
Mr. REMOND rose in opposition—He denied that the paper published by Mr. Douglas is “the organ” of the colored people. He objected to the personal name of “Douglass’s Paper,” it savored too much of the demagogue—why was the name changed from the “North Star?”—again, he considered the paper to be partial in its tendencies, and derelict in the advocacy of the cause; there is in its columns a continual overflowing of flattery of a few men, while it detracts from the merits of many wise and good friends of the cause. He also held that it is not a genuine anti-slavery advocate—he protested against and of the exclusiveness which is favored and acknowledged in that paper,—he also objected to any such resolution, because he had been frequently insulted in it because of the difference of
opinion existing between himself and its editor. He did not believe that the paper is edited and conducted in the manner stated in the resolutions—it is ostensibly edited by Mr. Douglass, but in reality it is conducted by Miss Griffiths, a lady who is bigotted in her tendencies as in her spirit. . . .†Here the New York Evening Express reads: “Dr. J. MCCUNE SMITH replied, defending Mr. Douglass, when, after some further discussion, one member, Messrs. Beman declining to vote, and being excused. . . ."
(He was opposed to this eternal system of a few men going on the principle of “I tickle you and you tickle me.” There was no use in thus on every occasion puffing Mr. Douglass’s paper; it was not such a paper as could be supported by the whole colored people of this country.
Dr. SMITH said that the American Anti-Slavery Society had been doing nothing else but going on the Mutual Admiration Society principle, for the last twenty years. Their lecture system had fully shown that it was “I tickle you and you tickle me.” Such a thing in his opinion did no harm, but considerable good.
Mr. DOWNING thought Fred’s paper was more anti-slavery than the Liberator, and went in for the resolutions.
The ayes and nays were then taken and the resolutions adopted.
THE LAST SCENE—VERY FUNNY
While the vote was being taken on the last question, Mr. BEMAN refused to record his vote, on the ground that he didn’t think a member was compelled to vote.
VOICES—Yes, it does. (Great sensation.)
The CHAIR—It is courtesy due to this body.
Mr. BEMAN—I refuse.
The CHAIR, (in a fix)—Omit his name, Mr. Secretary.
Mr. BELL—Has he been excused?
Mr. BEMAN—l don’t ask to be excused. (Tremendous excitement.)
The CHAIR—All in favor——
Mr. DOWNING, (greatly excited)—We must understand whether we are a body or not.
MEMBERS (rising from their seats)—That’s the question.
The CHAIR—All in favor will say “aye;” all opposed—)24From the New York Herald, 10 May 1855.
[T]he resolutions were adopted, Mr. Nell alone voting in the negative.
It was then resolved to hold a public meeting on Friday evening, at 7 1/2 o’clock.
The PRESIDENT then presented a report on the statistics of the colored people of the United States (37 pages octavo), embracing a view of the movements of the colored population from 1790 to 1850,—showing also the fallacy of Cary’s report, that the destruction of life in the British West Indies and Cuba is and was greater in the sugar cultivation than in America. Also, investigating the movements of the colored population by the internal slave trade, and the loss of life resulting therefrom, which was referred to the Publication Committee, with power to publish in pamphlet form.
The Convention then adjourned until 10 o’clock this morning.
Third Day [10 May 1855]
The members of the National Council of Colored Men assembled at 10 o’clock this morning, Dr. James McCune Smith, President, in the Chair.
The minutes of the proceedings at the meeting of Wednesday were read and approved, after which a vote of thanks was, on motion of Mr. Stephen Myers, tendered to the trustees and pastor of the Church for the use of their room for the purpose of the Convention.
Mr. Stephen Myers then moved that the members of the National Council and of the State Councils represented at this session, be ex ofﬁcio members of the National Convention to be held at Philadelphia.
Messrs. Stephen Smith and Fred. Douglass made some remarks in opposition.
Mr. Geo. F. Downing was desirous that the relationship of members of the council as to the constituents they represent should not be overlooked. From the people comes their power, and to the people alone it belongs to appoint delegates. He liked no such legislation as should take from the people the right to approve or disapprove of the action of their representatives.
Mr. Myers, in view of the remarks offered, consented to withdraw his resolution.
Mr. Downing then presented the following preamble and resolutions, which were carried without debate or opposition:
Whereas, It has been shown in the discussion before this Council, that there are a number of colored youths who seek employment and instruction as mechanics, that there are also in various sections of the country employers and mechanics willing to receive colored youths as apprentices, to work; and
Whereas, It is most desirable, that these two classes should have a
medium of communication, therefore,
Resolved, That the members of this Council constitute themselves a committee on trades and employments whose duty it shall be to receive and investigate the wants of those seeking apprenticeships and employments, and of those willing to employ and instruct colored youths.
Resolved, That all such information be sent for insertion in a column of Frederick Douglass' Paper to be entitled the trades column of the National Council.
Resolved, That for the printing and publishing of said column in his newspaper, for the term of one year, the sum of $150 be collected and paid to Mr. Douglass, by the members of the Council aforesaid, in the proportion of twelve dollars each.
Mr. Stephen Myers, then presented the following preamble and resolutions:
Whereas, Sermons and collections in various churches throughout the land, have been a means of building up the American Colonization Society, and promoting the expatriation of the colored people, and,
Whereas, an inﬂuence so long used to our detriment may be turned to our benefit and advancement, therefore,
Resolved, That we respectfully request the pastors of all colored churches friendly to the advancement of the colored people, to deliver one sermon and take up one collection for the benefit of the industrial school, all such collections to be forwarded to Stephen Smith, Treasurer, the National Council at Philadelphia, Pa.; or to James D. Bonner, Treasurer of
the Industrial School, Chicago, Illinois; John D. Bonner, or John Jones, Chicago, Illinois,25The repetition of Bonner's name is apparently a printer's error. As published in the New York Daily Tribune, 11 May 1855, the resolution at this point reads: ". . .JAMES D. BONNER, Treasurer ofthe Industrial School, Chicago. Ill., JOHN D. JONES, Chicago, Ill., and to J. W. LEWIS, St. Albans, Vt., who will duly announce the receipts in the column of the National Council, in Frederick Douglass' Paper." who will duly announce the receipts in the column of the National Council, in Frederick Douglass' Paper.
Mr. DOWNING considered that the resolutions laid the colored churches under the stigma of having work[ed?] for the detriment of their own people. He was desirous of seeing some amendment made in their wording. He made a motion that the words “in the United States” be inserted after the words “to the advancement ofthe colored people,” in the resolution, which amendment being accepted, the motion was unanimously adopted.
Mr. FRED. DOUGLASS, from the Committee on Business, rose and said, Sir, I do not know, since the action of the Council relative to the
relations of this board to the general convention, whether the report of a business committee will be in order, for they propose certain work to be done by and for the National Convention, and also to appoint certain officers for certain duties:
I. To report on the educational privileges enjoyed by the colored people, the number attending schools, [and] the character ofthe schools of each State. C. L. Reason to report.
II. To report on the mechanical trades, with the number ofcolored men working as employers, journeymen and apprentices, and in what States (and in what proportion) in the Union. E. V. Clark to report.
III. To report on the religious societies, the number of churches, denominations, and the number of the congregations in each State. C. B. Ray,26Charles Bennett Ray (1807—86), clergyman and journalist, was among the most active of New York City's black abolitionists. Born in Falmouth, Massachusetts, Ray studied theology at the Wesleyan Academy of Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and at Wesleyan University at Middletown, Connecticut. He was forced to leave the latter school in 1832 when some white students protested his presence as “inexpedient.” Ray worked as a traveling agent for the Colored American from 1837 to 1839 and then edited that paper until its demise in 1842. From 1846 to 1868 he was pastor of the Bethesda Congregational Church as well as missionary to the destitute blacks of New York City. Ray joined the American Anti-Slavery Society soon after its organization in 1833. Following the 1840 schism in the abolitionist movement, he sided with the anti-Garrisonian faction and served on the executive committee of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and its successor body, the American Abolition Society. Ray supported political abolitionism and was a secretary of the Liberty party‘s nominating convention at Buffalo in 1843. He also served as an officer in such church-oriented abolitionist projects as the Union Missionary Society and the American Missionary Association. In addition to the 1855 gathering, Ray attended most of the National Negro Conventions of the 1840s and1850s and there backed proposals for establishing independent black newspapers and schools. He was corresponding secretary for both the New York City and the New York State Vigilance Committees. and his home frequently sheltered fugitive slaves. Besides his antislavery and ministerial work, Ray was active in the temperance movement and was president of both the New York African Society for Mutual Relief and the New York Society for the Promotion of Education Among Colored Children. Sketch of the Life of Rev. Charles B. Ray (New York, 1887), 8—13, 17-19, 25, 32, 51, 73; William Wells Brown, The Rising Son; or, The Antecedents and Advancement of the Colored Race (Boston, 1876), 472—73; Monroe N. Work. “The Life of Charles B. Ray,” JNH, 4 : 361—71 (October 1919); PaF, 26 March 1840; NS, 4, 18 May 1849; FDP, 9 March, 16 November 1855; Lib., 12 January 1833; Penn, Afro-American Press, 35 47, 97; Quarles, Black Abolitionists, 45—46, 68, 79- 80, 87-89, 95, 149, 154, 184-85; Pease and Pease, They Who Would Be Free, 80—81, 114, 175-77, 195—97, 210, 287—89; Gerald Sorin, The New York Abolitiontsts: A Case Study of Political Radicalism (Westport, Conn., 1971), 93-94; DANB, 515—16; DAB, 15 : 403—04. Dr. Pennington, S. Myers and Stephen Smith to be a committee toreport.
IV. To report on the benevolent societies including the Odd Fellows and Masons, the number of members, the amount expended in carrying on their objects, with name, &c. W. J. Wilson to report.
V. To report on the history and importance of the press for colored people. J. Mercer Langston and Amos. G. Beman to report.
I move also, sirs, that each member of the National Council, be instructed to present to the National Convention, or in case he is not elected, to send to that body, a draft of this constitution, amended as he would like to have it. I think that we could not have too many drafts of amended constitutions before that body.
The report was adopted and the resolution carried.
It was then, on motion, agreed that the general election for delegates to the National Convention be held on Thursday, 14th September next.
A vote of thanks having then been tendered to the ofﬁcers of the Council, the Convention adjourned sine die.