Convention of Colored Men of KentuckyThe First Convention of Colored Men of Kentucky was held in Lexington, KY, March 22-26, 1866. The convention was held in Ladies Hall on Church Street. The organization was to be temporary, according to the recorded proceedings. George Perry was named chairman and Henry Scroggins was named secretary. The organization had been formed first and foremost to address the Kentucky Legislature on the issue of voting rights for African American men. Other concerns included morality, education, temperance, frugality, industry, and the overall well being of African Americans in Kentucky.
Initially, the organization did not push for total equality, but rather was organized with the intent of taking one step at a time toward gaining civil rights and justice. They established the Kentucky State Benevolent Association with Henry King as chairman, Madison C. Johnson as vice president, Henry Scroggins as recording secretary, James H. Campbell as corresponding secretary, and George Perry as treasurer. There was also an executive committee that was given the power to call a convention whenever they thought it necessary; they were the managers of the association. Convention members who arrived late or left the meeting early were fined. There was an exceptionally high expectation that all who had committed to the convention would arrive on time and remain for the duration of the meeting.
Delegates came from all over the state. There was also a list of honorary members, beginning with Rev. John G. Fee. A petition was raised to pay the Ladies' Educational Association for the use of their building, Ladies Hall. The petition passed and the Ladies received $25, which was $8 more than they had asked. The Benevolent Association bought stock in the Colored Citizen newspaper, which was recognized as the voice of African Americans in Kentucky. Recognition was also given to Charlotte Scott, former slave of Dr. Rucker in Virginia; Scott was leading the campaign for the erection of the National Colored Men's Monument in memory of President Lincoln.
Twelve hundred copies of the Proceedings of the First Convention of Colored Men of Kentucky were printed and forwarded to prominent men such as President Andrew Johnson. For several years, William J. Simmons served as chair of the executive committee of the Convention of Colored Men of Kentucky, with one of his re-elections taking place in 1875. He chaired the committee that led in presenting grievances to the Kentucky Legislature. In 1886, his speech before the Legislature on the injustices put upon the Colored people of Kentucky was described as a masterpiece; the Kentucky Legislature order that 2000 copies be printed. It was the first time that an African American addressed the Kentucky Legislature about the plight of African Americans in Kentucky.
For more about the establishment of the organization, see the Proceedings of the First Convention of Colored Men of Kentucky [available at Google Books]. For more on the text of William J. Simmons' speech, see pp. 48-50 in Men of Mark by W. J. Simmons and H. M. Turner [available at Google Books]; and Life Behind a Veil, by G. C. Wright.