1916 Convention of Ex-Slaves in D.C.

What an unbelievably powerful photo that speaks for itself. Click on it for a more detailed version.

1916 Slaves reunion. Lewis Martin, age 100; Martha Elizabeth Banks, age 104; Amy Ware, age 103; Rev. Simon P. Drew, born free." Cosmopolitan Baptist Church, 921 N Street N.W. (Shorpy)
1916 Slaves reunion. Lewis Martin, age 100; Martha Elizabeth Banks, age 104; Amy Ware, age 103; Rev. Simon P. Drew, born free. Cosmopolitan Baptist Church, 921 N Street N.W. (Shorpy)

Below is an article published by the Washington Post on September 25th, 1916, leading up to the convention.

A mass meeting will be held tonight at Cosmopolitan Baptist Church, Tenth and N streets northwest, to appoint committees and make other arrangements for the entertainment of delegates and visitors to the fifty-fourth annual convention of ex-slaves to be held here October 22-30 under the auspices of the White Cross National Colored Old Home Association of the United States and the National Evangelistic Ministers’ Alliance of America. Dr. Simon P. W. Drew, pastor of Cosmopolitan Baptist Church, will preside at the meeting tonight.

A free dinner will be served for the ex-slaves each day during the convention. Former slaves of Gen. Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson will be present. All persons desiring to aid in entertaining the old slaves are requested to send contributions or articles of wearing apparel to Mrs. Julia Palmer, 1513 Tenth street northwest.

Not only were the ex-slaves of Lee and Jackson present, but among the invited included the last living ex-slave of George Washington. It’s unclear whether he attended or not as the Washington Post reported on October 16th that “he may be too feeble to attend.”

Two elderly convention attendees in 1916 (Library of Congress)
Two elderly convention attendees in 1916 (Library of Congress)

The convention invited quite an impressive roster of speakers for the opening.

President Wilson, Vice President Marshall, Candidates Hughes and Fairbanks, together with a number of other notables, have been invited to deliver addresses before the fifty-fourth convention of former slaves, which is to be held in the Cosmopolitan Baptist Church, N street near Ninth street northwest, beginning October 22 and lasting to November 6.

Colored people of the District are cooperating in efforts to make the affair a success. In a mass meeting last night at the church it was resolved that all those present should participate in the convention and otherwise aid in caring for the former slaves.

Arrangements have been made to have vehicles of all kinds ready to carry the aged folks about the city and to and from the convention.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to track down any information about who accepted the invitation to address the convention.

Here is today's recommendation for you. We think you'll like it!