A Long-Lost Black Political Convention in Texas in 1871

The Colored Conventions Project (CCP) is an amazing research collective that documents Black political organizing across the nineteenth century. It’s also partially crowdsourced, and tonight I may have found a document to contribute.

Scroll down the project’s list of state, regional, and national conventions organized by African Americans before, during, and long after the Civil War. You’ll quickly see why the CCP is so important. Historians know that Black activists worked for civil rights long before “The Civil Rights Movement” of the 1960s. CCP has the receipts to prove it.

But that list also shows there are still some meetings that the project is “seeking records” for. In other words, they know from other sources when and where a Black convention occurred, but they don’t yet have the minutes. One such gap they’ve identified is the “1871 Texas State Colored Convention held in Houston.” The minutes for that meeting appear to be here.

The link above points to an August 26, 1871, article on the front page of The Representative, an African American newspaper in Galveston published by Richard Nelson, reportedly the first Black Texan to own, edit, and publish his own newspaper. Under the headline “Texas State Convention,” Nelson reprinted a series of resolutions and votes taken at a meeting held on August 3 in Houston. The meeting was called for the purpose of choosing delegates from Texas to another “colored convention” that the CCP does have records for: The Southern States Convention of Colored Men held at Columbia, SC, in October 1871. And those records show that the delegates elected at the August 3 meeting are the same ones who showed up in Columbia in October.

The Black Texans who gathered in Houston on August 3 likely chose that date for their meeting because a state Republican Party convention was happening in Houston the same week. Men like Nelson and Richard Allen took an active part in both. The Houston Daily Union, a radical Republican sheet, included the same minutes printed by Nelson in its August 4 issue under the headline “The Labor Convention.” The day before, the Union reported that the meetings that week had also brought the “Galveston Brass Band,” reputed to be “the oldest colored band in the State,” to town. And on August 5, the Union listed again the delegates who had been elected earlier that week to represent Texas in the “Southern States Convention” in South Carolina: Richard Allen, Richard Nelson, James Green, J. H. Townsend, John DeBruhl, and D. G. Scott.

Looking forward to submitting these to the CCP to see what the project team thinks. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the other meetings that still need records and help advance the project if you can!

Photo credit: Houston Daily Union, August 5, 1871, 3, America’s Historical Newspapers database by Readex

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W. Caleb McDaniel @wcaleb
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