The Black and Puerto Rican Convention

On November 14-16, 1969, the Committee for Unified Newark (CFUN) sponsored the Black and Puerto Rican Convention, which was designed to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. Of course like at most conventions, the choices had already been made before the public meetings, although there was an opportunity for people to be nominated “from the floor.” For the hundreds of people there, it was more of an opportunity to galvanize the community around candidates they knew, and to get on board with CFUN for the ultimate trip of our lifetime.  There would be only one chance to elect the “first Black Mayor.”

This Convention was different than the one convened by the United Brothers in 1968, which was held to nominate candidates to fill vacancies on the City Council and was ultimately unsuccessful.  In addition to the higher stakes of a mayoral election, the addition of the words “and Puerto Rican” to the name of the Convention showed the intentions of the organizers to build a broader political coalition.  About 400-500 delegates attended the Convention, but the cultural nationalists were not as visible this time. CFUN leader Amiri Baraka had instead asked Bob Curvin and others to be in charge.  Curvin said,

While the first convention had been dominated by Baraka and the more separatist leaders of the Black community, the 1970 Convention was organized by a broad based committee headed by myself (Curvin) and leaders of the Urban League, …the National Council of Negro Women, a representative of a Black doctors organization, members of CFUN, and a number of Black and Puerto Rican leaders.”

While Curvin may be correct in the names of organizations that chaired the group, it would be inaccurate to call Baraka or CFUN “separatists.” However, it was in everyone’s interest that CFUN downplay the cultural nationalism, along with the rift that lay just under the surface amongst the various interest groups in this coalition.

Ken Gibson emerged as the “consensus candidate,” for mayor, along with the following candidates for the City Council: Sharpe James (South Ward); Dennis Westbrooks (Central Ward); Donald Tucker, Earl Harris, Ramon Aneses, and Ted Pinckney (Councilmen-at-Large). The main discussion of the Convention centered on the political platform, which all the candidates agreed to be bound by. The Convention came forth with some very interesting platform items:

  • The cost of education and welfare should be completely taken over by state and federal government (more state money was ordered by the NJ Supreme Court as part of the “Abbott remedies” in Abbott vs. Burke some 24 years later)
  • Revenue Sharing (federal funding mechanism) should give “extra consideration” to real estate tax overburdened cities like Newark
  • Schools must teach Black and Puerto Rican history beginning at primary level. This history should be “written by Black and Puerto Rican writers, and approved by the community”
  • The school district should be “divided into districts with duly elected governing Boards for each district.” (Community control of schools)
  • More blacks and Puerto Ricans must be appointed on the police force, and police officers must live in the city
  • Establishment of an effective Police Review Board “to investigate and hear community complaints concerning police activity”
  • Teachers must live in or have background related to the community in which they are teaching (mandated in No Child Left behind, federal legislation, 30 years later)
  • Schools need “An all day program for pre-kindergarten children” (Pre-school ordered in Abbott vs. Burke)
  • “Free lunches for economically disadvantaged children” (Mandated by U.S. Government Title I program years later)


From the examples cited, it is evident that there was some real thinking and democracy going on in the workshops. “I remember seeing the passionate faces of the session leaders as we came forward at the last plenary session, to unite the convention around these demands upon which the candidates were duty-bound to accept,” Junius Williams recalls. “This platform and the hope that was intrinsic within, is what makes me excited every time I read the document. However, in the campaign to follow, very seldom did we hear evidence of commitment to these promises.”

Letter from Hilda Hidalgo Urging Participation

Letter from Hilda Hidalgo Urging Participation

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Handwritten letter from Puerto Rican community leader, Hilda Hidalgo, urging participation in the 1969 Black and Puerto Rican Convention. Hidalgo writes in the letter, “Without attending the convention, You will lose, Ken will lose, Blacks will lose, Puerto Ricans will lose, Newark will lose.” The Convention was organized to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection

Platform of the Black and Puerto Rican Convention

Platform of the Black and Puerto Rican Convention

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Official platform of the Black and Puerto Rican Convention, ratified on November 15, 1969, the second day of the Convention. The platform, developed through the Convention’s workshops, put forth a progressive political agenda for Newark’s 1970 Mayoral and City Council elections that all candidates nominated at the Convention agreed to be bound by. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection

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Meeting Minutes of the Planning Committee

Meeting Minutes of the Planning Committee

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Minutes of a meeting held by the planning committee for the Black and Puerto Rican Convention on June 27, 1969. The 1969 Black and Puerto Rican Convention was organized to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection
 
 
Invitation to Attend a Meeting of the Planning Committee

Invitation to Attend a Meeting of the Planning Committee

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Letter from John Bugg, James Pawley, and Robert Curvin, on behalf of the planning committee for the Black and Puerto Rican Convention. The Convention’s planning committee sought participation in the planning process from a variety of individuals and organizations in Newark. The Convention was organized to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection
Meeting Attendance Records for the Black and Puerto Rican Political Convention

Meeting Attendance Records for the Black and Puerto Rican Political Convention

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Attendance lists and member rosters from meetings of the planning committee for the Black and Puerto Rican Convention. The wide array of individuals and organizations that participated in the Convention’s planning can be seen by scrolling through these lists. The Convention was organized to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection
A Black Convention in 1969 (Statement of Purpose for a Black and Puerto Rican Political Convention)

A Black Convention in 1969 (Statement of Purpose for a Black and Puerto Rican Political Convention)

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Statement of purpose and mission for the 1969 Black and Puerto Rican Convention. The Convention was organized by an array of individuals and organizations in Newark to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection
Draft Proposal for Newark Convention Committee

Draft Proposal for Newark Convention Committee

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In this draft proposal for the 1969 Black and Puerto Rican Convention, the planning committee describes the purpose of the Convention and explains the need for Black and Puerto Rican political power in the city. The Convention was organized by an array of individuals and organizations in Newark to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection
Welcome Letter to All Delegates and Guests (Black and Puerto Rican Political Convention)

Welcome Letter to All Delegates and Guests (Black and Puerto Rican Political Convention)

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Welcome Letter distributed to all delegates and guests of the 1969 Black and Puerto Rican Convention. The Convention was held from November 14-16, 1969 to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection
Schedule for the Black and Puerto Rican Political Convention

Schedule for the Black and Puerto Rican Political Convention

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Schedule of events for the Black and Puerto Rican Convention, held in Newark from November 14-16, 1969. The convention, attended by Newark residents and national figures, consisted of workshops, speeches by candidates, ratification of the platform, and the presentation of candidates. The Convention was held organized to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection
Workshop Guide for Black and Puerto Rican Political Convention

Workshop Guide for Black and Puerto Rican Political Convention

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List of workshop titles and locations for the Black and Puerto Rican Convention, held in Newark from November 14-16, 1969 to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection
Workshop Information for the Black and Puerto Rican Political Convention

Workshop Information for the Black and Puerto Rican Political Convention

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Guidelines for workshop programs at the Black and Puerto Rican Convention, held in Newark from November 14-16, 1969 to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection
Flyer- Support Dennis A Westbrooks for Central Ward Councilman

Flyer- Support Dennis A Westbrooks for Central Ward Councilman

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Flyer distributed by supporters of Dennis Westbrooks to promote his candidacy for Councilman of the Central Ward at the Black and Puerto Rican Convention. The Convention was held in Newark from November 14-16, 1969 to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection
Candidate Biography of Ramon Aneses

Candidate Biography of Ramon Aneses

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Brief biography of Ramon Aneses, candidate for Councilman-at-Large, distributed at the Black and Puerto Rican Convention. The Convention was held in Newark from November 14-16, 1969 to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection
Flyer- Consider Jesse Allen for Councilman at Large

Flyer- Consider Jesse Allen for Councilman at Large

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Flyer distributed by supporters of Jesse Allen to promote his candidacy for Councilman-At-Large at the Black and Puerto Rican Convention. The Convention was held in Newark from November 14-16, 1969 to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. Allen did not end up on the 1970 election ticket. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection
Candidate Profile of Ken Gibson- Candidate for Mayor of the City of Newark

Candidate Profile of Ken Gibson- Candidate for Mayor of the City of Newark

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Profile of Kenneth A. Gibson distributed at the Black and Puerto Rican Convention to promote his candidacy for mayor in the 1970 election. The Convention was held in Newark from November 14-16, 1969 to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Junius Williams Collection
Amiri Baraka and Ken Gibson

Amiri Baraka and Ken Gibson

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Photo of Amiri Baraka in the foreground, with Ken Gibson just behind him. Baraka and Gibson were both members of the United Brothers, a coalition of Black leaders in Newark organized to develop a “Black United Front” to take power in the mayoral election of 1970. — Credit: Newark Public Library
Campaign Poster- Vote for Gibson and the Black Convention Councilmen (1970)

Campaign Poster- Vote for Gibson and the Black Convention Councilmen (1970)

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Campaign poster from the 1970 Mayoral and City Council elections in Newark. The 1969 Black and Puerto Rican Convention was organized to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Newark Public Library
Black Power Now!

Black Power Now!

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Bumper sticker from the 1970 Mayoral and City Council elections in Newark. The 1969 Black and Puerto Rican Convention was organized to formally select the “Community’s Choice” for Mayor and City Council in the 1970 election. — Credit: Newark Public Library