This Day in History

Oct. 6, 1841: Maine’s First Colored Convention

Time Periods: 1800
Themes: African American, Organizing, Racism & Racial Identity, Slavery and Resistance

The first Colored Convention in Maine was held on October 6, 1841, in Portland, Maine. Describing Colored Conventions, the Colored Conventions Project states

Held throughout the antebellum period and continuing for 30 years beyond the Civil War, these political gatherings offered opportunities for free-born and formerly enslaved African Americans to organize and strategize for racial justice. . . . [M]ore than 200 state and national Colored Conventions were held between 1830 and the 1890s.

Sketch of people debating at the Colored Convention in Washington D.C.

The National Colored Convention in session at Washington, D.C., as sketched by Theo. R. Davis. Though this is of the National Colored Convention, it is illustrative of the state conventions held during that time. Source: Public domain

As opposed to Maine’s first Anti-Slavery Society Convention held in Augusta, Maine, in 1834, which was comprised primarily of white abolitionists, the Colored Conventions in Portland — including a second one in 1850 — were attended exclusively by Black organizers.

From the Minutes of Maine’s first Colored Convention in 1841, organizers declared:

We are identified with the poor, suffering, bleeding slave of the South. He is our brother. The claims of kin are added to the claims of humanity upon us to labor directly and heartily with the philanthropist, to undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free. The condition of our enslaved brethren greatly affects our own. We cannot expect the full enjoyment of all our rights while the influence of Slavery is felt in our land.

Learn more at the Colored Conventions Project.