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Colored Conventions in the 21st Century: Recovering the Black Protest Tradition

February 29, 2020 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EST

This is a four‐part series. Participants are expected to attend all four sessions:

February 29 + March 28 + April 11 + May 2


Sarah Patterson, PhD

Trainer: Sarah Patterson, PhD, Assistant Professor of African American Literature and Culture, Department of English, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Class Description: This four‐part class series will foster a community interested in learning about forgotten cultures of Black‐led activism connected to the historic, yet understudied Colored Conventions movement (1830‐ 1890s). Across seven‐decades, thousands of free and fugitive leaders gathered at widely attended public meetings called “Colored Conventions” to advocate for educational, legal, labor, and social rights. The present rise of 21st‐century large‐scale reform causes behooves us to revisit previous legacies in an effort to inform our own imprint on social change initiatives. A sampling of iconographies of mass protest, petitions, fundraising, and census‐taking projects will allow participants to construe a strong sense of democratic cultures of public dissent among people of color. With materials featuring the movement’s longest‐running celebrity delegate, Frederick Douglass, and the orator Ida B. Wells, together we’ll investigate the ways the intersection of race, class, and gender is represented in heated conflicts and stand‐out moments that characterize the rise of a marginalized class of Black protest organizers during one of the nation’s most contentious and transformative eras.

Each class will open with essential elements of the movement’s practices followed by hands‐on, skill‐building exercises that target all levels of interest in social change and team‐oriented collaboration. Open‐floor discussions will offer additional opportunities to share strategies and raise pressing questions. Undergraduate scholars will bring exciting energy to classes as co‐facilitators, offering unique perspectives as agents of social change.

Class topics include:

  • Designing platforms and choosing tools for collaboration;
  • Mock dilemmas addressing consensus‐building and defining leadership styles;
  • Progressive recruitment strategies and the ethics of fair representation in advocacy work;
  • Reaching diverse audiences through mission statements, publicity and event planning.


February 29, 2020
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EST
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