Starting in 1830, free African Americans in the northern states met periodically in national and state conventions to discuss important matters of interest to them. These conventions spoke boldly on the key issues of the day. Delegates met in committees to formulate statements, and then debated these statements on the floor of the convention.
Hold your own black national convention. Divide the class into five groups. Each will serve as a committee designed to respond to one of the following issues. Groups may be given time outside or inside of class to research their topic. Then the group should prepare a two-page statement on the topic. The statement should take one page to describe the issue and what made it controversial, and the second should offer the group's stance on the issue. How do you think free black Northerners would have responded? The statements may then be read and debated in class, on the "convention" floor.
1. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850
2. Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852)
3. The guerilla war in "Bleeding Kansas"
4. The rise of the Republican Party
5. The Supreme Court's decisions in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
6. John Brown's raid on the federal armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia (1859)