EVEN THE most cursory look at each convention this summer was enough to figure out which party had attracted the most black delegates. But that stark contrast told only half the story of black participation in this year's political gatherings. It wasn't merely the numbers in New York, but what those black delegates were doing -- and where. As staff writer Herbert H. Denton reported, gone were the days of the black caucuses that used to be "must" meetings for the then-far-thinner black ranks, the sessions convened to draft strategy, reconfirm solidarity and come up with ways to attract convention attention. Blacks were everywhere at this week's convention, pressing countless concerns, supporting different candidates and exercising political muscle wherever decisions were being made.

If there was uneasiness among some black delegates about the disappearance of those old unity rallies, it was oveshadowed by the diversity of interests and the range of activities pursued by the 481 delegates in attendance. Significant, too, was the openness with which black delegates discussed their differences -- differences that existed among all delegates rather than among black delegates. To air these differences was not to confess weakness or to bare disunity, but but to articulate honest political opinions.

It wasn't that the black delegates no longer shared any common concerns. There were occasions in New York for forming delegations of emissaries to meet with White House operatives, or to amplify certain positions widely shared by blacks. But by and large, black delegates were busy alongside their colleagues, participating in their capacities as elected state and local officials, union leaders, supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment, urban advocates, environmentalists and so on. It was a striking measure of the success of the cause for which those earlier caucuses and unity rallies had been working.