On September 29, 1865, five months after the close of the Civil War, the “Convention of the Freedmen of North Carolina,” a statewide assembly of African Americans, gathered at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Raleigh. The convention lasted four days with 106 men in attendance.
Under President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction plan, the state was required to hold a convention in order to nullify the Ordinance of Secession, abolish slavery and void the Confederate war debt. Only when this was done would Congress consider North Carolina’s bid to rejoin the Union.
The convention was scheduled to take place at the State Capitol on October 2. Since only whites could vote to elect delegates to this convention, the voice of the former slaves would not be heard. The Convention of the Freedmen of North Carolina was timed to draw attention away from the white convention by starting three days earlier. Its purpose was to discuss and make known issues important to the former slaves.
James Walker Hood of New Bern was elected president of the Freedmen’s Convention. Hood stressed that “equal rights before the law” should be the convention’s watchwords. The delegates pressed for rights to testify in court, to serve as jurors, to act as counsel and to vote. The convention closed on October 3.
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