The Petersburg convention was a raucous meeting, and in addition to the nearly 300 delegates a large number of spectators viewed the proceedings from the gallery, and some of them tried to speak from the floor. Personal rivalries among the leaders and differing political priorities led to clashes in the beginning, and many men did not want to lose their political identity as Republicans, which they feared might happen if they voted to affiliate with the Readjusters. Suspicious of white political leaders whom they believed did not always put the interests of African Americans first, those delegates were reluctant to lose control of their own political agenda by becoming part of a larger political organization with white leadership.
Although a few black men stormed out of the convention when they did not get their way in the choice of convention officers, most remained, endorsed the long statement of principles and purposes that the delegates adopted at the end of the day when offering their support to the Readjuster Party, and advised other black voters to do the same. "To the jury," one part of their address declared, "the free schools, and the ballot we look as the highest earnests and the best safeguards of all that is valuable in our citizenship, and it is with the most fervent aspiration that we seek the final obliteration in politics of that color-line which, disastrous to the nation, the State, and all the people, has been especially hurtful to ourselves as a race."
The declaration also reaffirmed the delegates' allegiance to the national Republican Party in spite of the weaknesses of the state Republican Party. "The Republican party of the Nation is not in question here and now," they declared. "The National Republican party, from its advent to the present moment, has given too many evidences of its friendship to the rights of man for us to renounce our allegiance to it in any time of need."
The declaration concluded with a strong endorsement of the Readjuster Party. "Resolved, That the colored people of Virginia, in convention assembled, in the city of Petersburg, regard the Re-Adjuster party with favor, and confidently believe that their interests will be better secured and preserved by aiding that party in its efforts to achieve and permanently settle the antagonism of races, which has unfortunately affected the prosperity of our State."
March 14, 1881 - Almost 300 African American Republicans convene in Petersburg and decide to endorse the Readjuster Party in the important 1881 general election.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Tarter, B. Petersburg Convention of March 14, 1881. (2015, November 4). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Petersburg_Convention_of_March_14_1881.
- MLA Citation:
Tarter, Brent. "Petersburg Convention of March 14, 1881." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 4 Nov. 2015. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: November 3, 2014 | Last modified: November 4, 2015
Contributed by Brent Tarter, founding editor of the Dictionary of Virginia Biography.