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Democracy Works: Colored Conventions Show Us Where Democracy Really Happens

Gabrielle Foreman
Photo Provided
Penn State professor P. Gabrielle Foreman was named a 2022 MacArthur Fellow in the Oct. 12, 2022 announcement.

For nearly 100 years, African Americans gathered in cities across the United States to participate in state and national-level political meetings that went far beyond slavery and conventional racial narratives to discuss education, labor, and what true equal citizenship would look like. This rich history went largely unnoticed for decades until P. Gabrielle Foreman and her colleagues formed the Colored Conventions Project to collect and categorize convention records and associated documents.

Foreman and Colored Conventions Project Co-Director Jim Casey, both professors at Penn State, join us this week to explain what the Colored Conventions were and how they fit into the larger arc of the Black freedom struggle and the ongoing effort to make the United States a fully-inclusive multiracial democracy. In addition to co-leading the Colored Conventions Project, Foreman and Casey are also co-authors of "The Colored Conventions Movement: Black Organizing in the Nineteenth Century," released in March 2021 by the University of North Carolina Press.

Jenna Spinelle is the Communications Specialist for the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State. She is responsible for shaping all of the institute's external communication, including website content, social media, multimedia, and media outreach.