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The Convention Movement

At present, National race conventions, of various kinds, are quite familiar to all. The ''Convention Movement" has reference to the very beginning of such assemblies in this country among our people. Of course, before the Civil War such were necessarily confined to "free persons of color." In the years following the War of 1814, the troubles, disadvantages, and oppression of ''free colored persons" in the so called free states multiplied and increased. The air was filled with colonization schemes, and the various uprisings among the blacks, in other sections of the country, contributed towards rendering the lot of the free colored person far from being a happy one.

The idea of holding a convention of free colored persons, somewhere in the Free states, was born in the mind of Hezekiah Grice, a free person of color of the city of Baltimore. Early in the spring of 1830 he sent out a number of circulars to free colored men in the various Free states to elicit their views. A primary meeting was held, shortly, in the city of Philadelphia, and the call for the convention was formally sent out, which convened in that same city of Philadelphia on the 15th of September, 1830. The convention was held in Bethel Church, and Bishop Allen was its president. The delegates attending from the city of Baltimore were: Hezekiah Grice, James Deaver, Aaron Wilson and Robert Cowly.

There were forty delegates present, representing seven states: Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The convention registered its protest against the colonization scheme and appointed committees to make investigation with respect to settlements in some part of Canada. These conventions became a fixed annual institution, and were regularly held until the Civil War. The convention of 1831 is memorable from the fact that the ''free colored persons'' of that day seemed to have anticipated both Hampton and Booker T. Washington.

 In the former convention something was said of the need of a "Manual Training School," and adequate land had been tendered for the purpose, near New Haven, Conn. But the white people of that vicinity vigorously "protested" against the establishment there of such an institution for colored people.

But, of Hezekiah Grice we know but little. He was a man of considerable ability, an ardent race lover, and an aggressive anti-slavery man. He was associated with Benjamin Lundy and William Lloyd Garrison in the publication in Baltimore of "The Genius of Universal Emancipation." When the publishers of that paper were mobbed and their plant destroyed, he fled with them, but subsequently he returned. He organized in Baltimore, in that early day, among the free colored people, a "Legal Rights Association." A few years after, he emigrated to Haiti, where he became a large contractor. A daughter of Hezekiah Grice, Miss Elizabeth, became the wife of the Rev. William Douglass, rector of St. Thomas' Church, Philadelphia. Mr. Douglass, himself, was ordained to the Episcopal ministry by Bishop Stone, an Eastern Shore man, and a lineal descendant of Governor Stone, of Colonial days in Maryland.

 Maryland Biographies | Maryland AHGP

Source: Gazetteer of Maryland, by Henry Gannett, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1904.


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