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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 June 2021
The Colored Conventions were an enduring part of Frederick Douglass’s life. He first attended a convention in 1843. Decades later, his voice defined the national Colored Convention of 1883 with a powerful speech on the value of Black activism, “Why Hold A Colored Convention?” Over the years, Douglass worked alongside tens of thousands of African Americans to build state, regional, and national coalitions. The challenges of forging a national coalition shaped many convention debates, reaching beyond slavery and freedom to focus on citizenship and Black civil, legal, educational, and voting rights. Before the Civil War, those debates helped push Douglass from a focus on the immorality of slavery to the political issues facing northern Black communities. During and after Reconstruction, he became the dean of Black activism, guiding attempts at national conventions in New York, Washington, DC, Louisiana, and Kentucky to mobilize the power of Black communities across the country.