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BHM 2018 #10: Fifty Years of Black Mayoral Leadership

The end of the month is upon us and there were a few more things I wanted to do, but did not have the energy. I wanted to do more of the Congresscritters, I wanted to look at Federal Judges. But I only have time for one more. I thought it was important to look at black mayors because of the incredible power they have wielded, affecting the lives of thousands and even millions of people. It turns out that the year 2017 marks the 50th year in which we have had black mayors in major US cities, and several articles have been written to commemorate this landmark. So, I’ve had some meat to put together a summary of this history. Enjoy.

The year 2007 marked the 40th anniversary of the election of the first black mayor of a big U.S city. Cleveland was the first with the selection of Carl Stokes as mayor in 1967. Gary, Indiana followed suit the same year with the election of Richard Hatcher, and the federal government appointed Walter Washington to become Washington, DC’s first black mayor as well. Later, Newark (Kenneth Gibson), Dayton (James McGee) and Cincinnati (Ted Berry) followed suit by 1972, and culminated with the elections of Tom Bradley (Los Angeles), Maynard Jackson (Atlanta) and Coleman Young (Detroit) in 1973. The decade that followed Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination was as tumultuous as they come for America’s largest cities. That period, well remembered by those who lived it as a time of particularly strong urban and social tensions, coincided with the downward slide in momentum of the Civil Rights Movement and the subsequent rise of the Black Power Movement. Older adults likely remember the period well: urban riots, fights over school busing, Affirmative Action battles, efforts to eliminate long-entrenched policies like blockbusting and redlining. Skyrocketing crime, heated debates on the inequity of public services, and the development of a new, rapidly expanding land called “suburbia” that was looking very appealing to a growing number of city residents.

The of the first 8 cities, Cleveland, Gary, Newark and Detroit became stigmatized in a way that few have been able to recover from. A negative narrative was developed about most of them that stuck, despite considerable efforts to dispel them. Cities that elected “first black mayors” after the Black Power Era, during a period of relative calm, were able to adapt as the political skill set grew in the African-American community. However, the Black Power Era’s near-toxic combination of heightened white racism, black disenfranchisement and disillusionment — and ill-prepared black political leadership — accelerated the downfall of these select cities.

If anyone doubts the impact of electing an African-American mayor during the racially tumultuous late ‘60s-early ‘70s era, examine the general perceptions that formed of the cities during that period and have endured ever since. Newark and Detroit, already tainted by the aftermath of urban riots, were effectively shunned by white residents after the elections of their first black mayors. Cleveland may have been headed down the same path after the election of Carl Stokes in 1967. But Stokes chose not to run for a third two-year term as mayor, leaving a wide open field. Stokes was followed by three consecutive white mayors — Ralph J. Perk, Dennis Kucinich and George Voinovich — before the election of the city’s second black mayor, Michael White, in 1990. Atlanta touted itself as the “City too busy to hate” in the ‘70s, but Maynard Jackson’s 1973 election coincided with rapid white flight out of the city, at the same time that Sun Belt migration from the north was strengthening the suburban base. In Washington, DC, black political empowerment there was often wrapped up in the controversy of federal political representation for the District. Mayors in the District were federally appointed until Walter Washington was elected mayor in 1975.

Taking a long historical view, it’s clear that the people who became first African-American mayors beginning in the late ‘60s and continuing through today held different views, developed different paths to victory and methods of governance, and had differing perceptions of their skills among their constituents. First black mayors could dependably rely on a supermajority of black votes in their favor — and an equally large supermajority of white votes against them. Mayors elected through about 1975 were often activists straight from the Civil Rights Movement, and were looking for ways to turn the movement into actual political power.

The group of black mayors that followed them, from about 1975 to 1990 or so, had more distance between them and the Civil Rights Movement and were less concerned about implementing movement politics; they were more concerned about developing the kind of coalition that could get them elected and help them win legislative victories once in office. The third group of “first black mayors”, coming after about 1990 and continuing through today generally came to terms with a different demographic landscape in most major American cities.

Of the 100 largest cities in the country, 39 have had elected black mayors. In the year 2007, Gary, Detroit, Birmingham, Baltimore, Memphis, Atlanta, Cleveland, Newark and DC, all with populations over 250,000, and all having over 50% black populations, have had black mayors. In 2002, 57.1% of black mayors served in cities that did not have a black majority population. Philadelphia, Durham and Greensboro, NC, Jacksonville, Columbus, OH, Sacramento (black population 14%) and Wichita (black population 11%) also have. Things have really changed – black politicians are building non-black coalitions. As Houston mayor, Sylvester Turner, described in his State of Black America essay, leading in this current time requires that Black mayors are “nimble and strategic in their approach to leading our cities.” Younger white residents without the racial grievances of their parents or grandparents are returning to cities, and Hispanics are rapidly increasing in numbers. Anyone who would attempt to become a “first black mayor” in that environment would have to develop an appeal that goes beyond racial boundaries.

“To be an African-American mayor leading a city in the 21st century is not about “power” but about “possibilities.” With more than 470 African-American mayors leading cities across the United States, the lens of our leadership is shaped from our own personal experiences. Together, we collectively bring a perspective that allows for a spectrum of possibilities.”

— Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston, TX, “The Role and Obligations of African-American Mayors in the 21st Century,” State of Black America, May 2017

Wikipedia did an interesting list of “black mayoral firsts” and I thought I would share their list. You can see the huge gap between 1888 and 1964. And you can see the growing trend since 1975. In the article I read, it was interesting to note that in some cases, there was extensive gerrymandering, such that even with a black mayor, a white city council could block every turn, as could an elected white police commissioner. This needs to be a notice to us that with the 2020 Census coming up, it is critical that we have elected officials who will keep our political territories balanced, so that we can have meaningful representation.
So, here is the list.
1. First African American elected mayor of a U.S. town: Pierre Caliste Landry, Donaldsonville, Louisiana

2. First African-American mayor of Maryville, Tennessee: W. B. Scott

3. First African-American mayor of a predominantly white U.S. town, and of a Western U.S. town: Edward Duplex, Wheatland, California

4. First African-American mayor of a U.S. city: George D. Carroll, Richmond, California
5. First African-American mayor of a U.S. city: Robert C. Henry, Springfield, Ohio (appointed by city commission)
6. First African- American mayor of a U.S. city: Floyd J. McCree, Flint, Michigan

7. First Elected (1967) African-American mayor of a large U.S. city: Richard G. Hatcher, Gary, Indiana
8. First African-American mayor of a large U.S. city: Carl Stokes (Cleveland, Ohio)
9. First African American appointed mayor of Washington, D.C.: Walter Washington (see also: 1975)
10. First African American elected mayor of Ypsilanti, Michigan: John Burton

11. First African American elected Mayor of Montclair, New Jersey: Matthew G. Carter
12. First African-American mayor of a Kentucky city: Luska Twyman, Glasgow, Kentucky
13. First African American elected mayor of a predominantly white southern city: Howard Nathaniel Lee, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
14. First African American elected mayor of a Mississippi city: Charles Evers, Fayette, Mississippi

15. First African American elected mayor of Newark, New Jersey: Kenneth A. Gibson
16. First African American elected mayor of Dayton, Ohio: James H. McGee
17. First African American appointed mayor of Wichita, Kansas: A. Price Woodard
18. First African-American elected mayor of Salina, Kansas: Robert C. Caldwell

19. First African American appointed mayor of Grand Rapids, Michigan: Lyman Parks (see also: 1973)
20. First African-American mayor of Englewood, New Jersey: Walter Scott Taylor

21. First African-American mayor of Tallahassee, Florida and first African-American mayor of a state capital: James R. Ford
22. First African-American mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio: Ted Berry

23. First African American elected mayor of Detroit, Michigan: Coleman Young
24. First African American elected mayor of Raleigh, North Carolina: Clarence Lightner
25. First African American elected mayor of a major Southern city: Maynard Jackson, Atlanta, Georgia
26. First African American elected mayor of a major Western city: Tom Bradley, Los Angeles, California
27. First African-American woman mayor: Lelia Foley-Davis, Taft, Oklahoma
28. First African-American woman mayor of a major satellite city: Doris A. Davis, Compton, California
29. First African American elected mayor of Grand Rapids, Michigan: Lyman Parks (see also: 1971)

30. First African American elected mayor of Waco, Texas: Oscar Du Conge

31. First African American elected mayor, and first elected mayor, of Washington, D.C.: Walter Washington (see also: 1967)

32. First African-American mayor of Richmond, Virginia: Henry L. Marsh (Note: elected from within nine City Council members; changed to general election in 2003)

33. First African American elected mayor of Oakland, California: Lionel Wilson
34. First African American elected mayor of New Orleans: Ernest Nathan Morial
35. First African American elected mayor of Birmingham, Alabama: Richard Arrington, Jr.

36. First African American elected mayor of Camden, New Jersey: Randy Primas
37. First African American elected mayor of Spokane, Washington: James Everett Chase
38. First African American elected mayor of Plainfield, New Jersey, and first African American elected mayor in Central New Jersey: Everett C. Lattimore
39. First African-American mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas: Charles E. Bussey Jr.

40. First African American appointed mayor of Memphis, Tennessee: J.O. Patterson, Jr.

41. First African American elected Mayor of Chicago: Harold Washington
42. First African American elected mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina: Harvey Gantt
43. First African American elected Mayor of Flint: James Sharp

44. First African American elected Mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey: James L. Usry
45. First African American elected Mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Wilson Goode
46. First African American elected mayor of Portsmouth, Virginia: James W. Holley, III

47. First African American elected mayor of Mount Vernon, New York, and first African American elected mayor in New York state: Ronald Blackwood

48. First African American and first woman mayor of Newport News, Virginia: Jessie M. Rattley

49. First African American woman elected mayor of a major city Hartford, Connecticut: Carrie Saxon Perry
50. First African American appointed mayor of Baltimore, Maryland: Clarence H. Burns
51. First African American elected mayor of Tacoma, Washington: Harold Moss
52. First African American woman and first woman mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas: Lottie Shackelford

53. First African American elected mayor of Baltimore, Maryland: Kurt Schmoke
54. First African American elected mayor of Hempstead, New York: James A. Garner

55. First African American elected mayor of New York, New York: David Dinkins
56. First African American elected mayor of New Haven, Connecticut: John C. Daniels
57. First African American elected mayor of Richmond, California: George Livingston
58. First African American elected mayor of Rockford, Illinois: Charles Box
59. First African American elected mayor of Seattle, Washington: Norm Rice
60. First African American succeeds to the office of mayor of Minden, Louisiana, via recall of his predecessor: Robert T. Tobin

61. First African American elected Mayor of Trenton, New Jersey: Douglas Palmer
62. First African American elected mayor of New Bern, North Carolina: Leander R. “Lee” Morgan
63. First African American elected Mayor of Seattle, Washington: Norm Rice
64. First African-American mayor of Lynchburg, Virginia: M.W. Thornhill Jr.

65. First African American elected mayor of Memphis, Tennessee: W. W. Herenton
66. First African American elected mayor of Denver, Colorado: Wellington Webb
67. First African American elected mayor of Kansas City, Missouri: Emanuel Cleaver
68. First African American woman elected mayor of Washington, D.C.: Sharon Pratt Kellye U

69. First African American male elected mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts: Kenneth Reeves

70. First African American elected mayor of St. Louis, Missouri: Freeman Bosley, Jr.
71. First African American elected mayor of Rochester, New York: William A. Johnson, Jr.

72. First African American and first woman elected mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota: Sharon Sayles Belton

73. First African American elected mayor of Dallas, Texas: Ron Kirk
74. First African American elected mayor of Savannah, Georgia: Floyd Adams, Jr.

75. First African American elected mayor of San Francisco, California: Willie Brown
76. First African American elected mayor of Monroe, Louisiana: Abe E. Pierce, III

77. First African American elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi: Harvey Johnson, Jr.
78. First African American elected mayor of Houston, Texas: Lee P. Brown
79. First African American elected mayor of Des Moines, Iowa: Preston Daniels
80. First African-American mayor of Jasper, Texas: R. C. Horn
81. First African-American female elected mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts: E. Denise Simmons
82. First African-American mayor of Hopewell, Virginia: Curtis West Harris

83. First African-American mayor of Pineville, Louisiana: Clarence R. Fields (became interim mayor in 1999; was elected to a partial term in 2000 and re-elected to full terms in 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014)

84. First African American elected mayor of Columbus, Ohio: Michael B. Coleman
85. First African American elected mayor of Selma, Alabama: James Perkins, Jr.

86. First African American elected mayor of Hattiesburg, Mississippi: Johnny DuPree
87. First African-American woman mayor of a major Southern city, and first woman to be elected mayor of Atlanta, Georgia: Shirley Franklin
88. First African American and first woman elected mayor of Southfield, Michigan: Brenda L. Lawrence
89. First African American elected mayor of Fayetteville, North Carolina: Marshall Pitts Jr.
90. First African-American female Republican elected mayor of Tchula, Mississippi: Yvonne Brown

91. First African-American woman elected mayor of Dayton, Ohio: Rhine McLin
92. First African American elected mayor of Toledo, Ohio: Jack Ford

93. First African-American elected mayor of Palm Springs, California: Ron Oden
94. First African American elected by citizens as mayor of Tallahassee, Florida: John Marks
95. First African-American elected mayor, and first elected mayor, of San Ramon, California: H. Abram Wilson

96. First African American elected mayor of Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Kip Holden
97. First African-American mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Marvin Pratt
98. First African American elected mayor of Pine Bluff, Arkansas: Carl A. Redus Jr.
99. First African American elected mayor and first African-American female mayor of Waco, Texas: Mae Jackson[32]

100. First African American elected mayor of Buffalo, New York: Byron Brown
101. First African American elected mayor of Mobile, Alabama: Sam Jones
102. First African American elected mayor of Asheville, North Carolina: Terry Bellamy
103. First African American elected mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio: Mark Mallory
104. First African American elected mayor of Youngstown, Ohio: Jay Williams
105. First African American and woman elected mayor of Greenwood, Mississippi: Sheriel F. Perkins

106. First African American elected mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana: Cedric Glover
107. First African American elected mayor of Anderson, South Carolina: Terence Roberts
108. First African American elected mayor of Killeen, Texas: Timothy Hancock

109. First African-American woman and first woman elected mayor of Baltimore, Maryland: Sheila Dixon
110. First African American elected mayor of Greensboro, North Carolina: Yvonne Johnson
111. First African American elected mayor of Wichita, Kansas: Carl Brewer
112. First African American elected mayor of South Harrison Township, New Jersey: Charles Tyson

113. First African American elected mayor of Blue Springs, Missouri: Carson Ross
114. First African American elected mayor of Lancaster, Texas: Marcus Knight
115. First African American elected mayor of Mansfield, Ohio: Donald Culliver
116. First African American elected mayor of Sacramento, California: Kevin Johnson
117. First African American mayor of Festus, Missouri: Earl Cook
118. First African-American and first woman elected mayor of Cambridge, Maryland: Victoria Jackson-Stanley

119. First African American elected mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi: James Young
120. First African American elected mayor of Freeport, New York: Andrew Hardwick
121. First African American and first woman elected mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, and first African-American woman elected mayor in Utah: Mia Love[38]
122. First African-American woman elected mayor of Brentwood, Maryland: Xzavier Montgomery-Wright

123. First African-American woman elected mayor of Fontana, California: Acquanetta Warren
124. First African American elected mayor of Columbia, South Carolina: Stephen K. Benjamin

125. First African American elected mayor of Jacksonville, Florida: Alvin Brown
126. First African-American mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee: Daniel Brown

127. First African-American mayor of Ithaca, New York: Svante Myrick
128. First African-American mayor of Antioch, California: Wade Harper
129. First African American and first female mayor of Orrville, Alabama: Louvenia Diane Lumpkin
130. First African-American mayor of Phenix City, Alabama: Eddie Lowe
131. First African-American woman and first woman elected mayor of Gary, Indiana: Karen Freeman-Wilson

132. First African-American mayor of Plano, Texas: Harry LaRosiliere
133. First African-American mayor of Meridian, Mississippi: Percy Bland

134. First African-American mayor of Brunswick, Georgia: Cornell Harvey
135. First African-American female mayor of San Antonio, Texas: Ivy Taylor
136. First African-American woman elected mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana: Ollie Tyler
137. First African-American female Mayor of Teaneck, New Jersey, as well as the first African-American female mayor of any municipality in Bergen County, New Jersey: Lizette Parker

138. First African American and first African-American woman elected mayor of Pearsall, Texas: Mary Moore
139. First African American and first African-American woman elected mayor of Conway, South Carolina: Barbara Blain-Bellamy
140. First African American elected mayor of Camilla, Georgia: Rufus L Davis II
141. First African-American woman elected mayor of Toledo, Ohio: Paula Hicks-Hudson
142. First African-American woman and first woman elected mayor of Flint, Michigan: Karen Weaver

143. First African-American and first African-American female mayor of Midland City, Alabama: Jo Ann Bennett Grimsley
144. First AFircan American elected mayor of Norfolk, Virginia: Kenneth Alexander

145. First African American elected mayor of Stamps, Arkansas: Brenda Davis
146. First African-American woman elected mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina: Vi Lyles
147. First African American elected mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota: Melvin Carter


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BHM 2018 #9: Second Generation of Black Congressmen

Wikipedia tells us that there were 4 generations of African-Americans in the House of Representatives. The first generation served during Reconstruction from 1870-1887. Here I will present the Congressmen of the Second Generation. In my previous post, I left off James O’Hara because he didn’t really fit in the First Generation, during Reconstruction; he served after the troops had withdrawn from the South. I probably should have included him then. I am including him here.

In looking at the Second Generation, I am struck by how challenging it was to be a Republican in a Democratic-controlled Congress when nothing that you were trying to achieve had any real chance of success. The men of the Second Generation were trying to secure basic human rights for African-Americans: fighting discrimination, Black Codes and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. And at every turn, they were defeated. They also tried to secure needed infrastructure and economic gains for their districts, especially since their districts were largely African-American and largely poor. Again, no success. These men were smart, accomplished, and often great orators. Their speeches on the House floor made it into newspapers, and caused many people to take them seriously and give them respect. But they were fighting a lost cause. It was no longer politically expedient to “fight for Negro causes”.  With no support from Democrats or their fellow Republicans, the Congressmen of the Second Generation were unable to make a difference in any meaningful way. But they gave it their best effort. And deserve recognition and praise.


Second Generation:

  1. James O’Hara (R-NC) 1883-1887
  2. Henry Cheatham (R-NC) 1889-1893 – Defeated Hyman and O’Hara in the primaries
  3. John Mercer Langston (R-VA) 1890-1891
  4. Thomas Miller (R-SC) 1890-1891
  5. George Murray (R-SC) 1893-1895, 1896-1897 – Defeated Miller in the primaries
  6. George Henry White (R-NC) 1897-1901 – Defeated Cheatham in the primaries





James O’Hara (R-NC) 1883-1887

James Edward O’Hara was born February 26, 1844, in New York City, the illegitimate son of an Irish merchant and a black West Indian mother. While growing up he worked as a deckhand on ships that sailed between New York and the West Indies.  When he was eighteen O’Hara settled Halifax County, North Carolina with a group of missionaries.  Well–educated, he taught primary school to free black children in New Bern and Goldsboro, North Carolina in the 1860’s. He studied law at Howard University and passed the North Carolina Bar in 1873. From 1868 to 1869, O’Hara also served in the state house of representatives. In 1873, he was elected chairman of the Halifax County board of commissioners. O’Hara began his long quest for a seat in the U.S. Congress in 1874 when he made a bid for North Carolina’s northeastern “Black Second” district seat. O’Hara made another attempt at the “Black Second” nomination in 1878. Between congressional bids, O’Hara was active in local and national politics. By 1881, he had aligned himself with a statewide anti–Prohibition campaign and was an architect of a coalition between Liberal Democrats and North Carolina Republicans in 1882. That same year, he made his fourth attempt to gain the “Black Second” seat, bolstered by discontented local black politicians who believed they were being marginalized within the party.


During his first term O’Hara was the only African American in Congress. As part of the Republican minority in the House, O’Hara received appointments to the Mines and Mining and the Expenditures on Public Buildings committees when he arrived in Washington for the 48th Congress (1883–1885) in December 1883. He later traded his Mines and Mining position for a spot on the Invalid Pensions Committee in the 49th Congress (1885–1887). O’Hara was active on the Invalid Pensions Committee. In the first session, he introduced more than 100 committee reports, serving as an unofficial subcommittee chairman.15 O’Hara did not take the floor to make long addresses; instead, he delivered concise speeches and put forth bold legislation, often fighting for the rights he and other Black Americans had lost since the end of Reconstruction.


O’Hara was dedicated to civil rights and progress for African Americans. He was an active speaker against racial violence and introduced one of the first bills to make lynching a federal crime.  When the House considered a bill to regulate interstate commerce O’Hara introduced an amendment requiring equal accommodations for all travelers.  His amendment failed.  O’Hara also fought for the rights of women when he introduced a bill that would prohibit gender based salary discrimination in education.


Henry Cheatham (R-NC) 1889-1893


Cheatham was born into slavery in Henderson, North Carolina in 1957.  An adolescent after the American Civil War, Cheatham benefited from country’s short lived commitment to provide educational opportunities to all children.  He attended public school where he excelled in his studies.  After high school Cheatham was admitted to Shaw University, founded for the children of freedmen, graduating with honors in 1882.  He earned a masters degree from the same institution in 1887. Cheatham ran a successful campaign for the office of Registrar of Deeds at Vance County, North Carolina in 1884, and he served the county for four years.   He also studied law during his first term in office, with an eye toward national politics.


By the late 1880s, the Democratic–controlled North Carolina state legislature had tightened suffrage laws, greatly restricting black voters. Jim Crow statutes had disfranchised nearly 60 percent of the voting base in the “Black Second,” a predominantly African–American district that snaked along coastal sections of the northeastern part of the state.3 A split in the African–American vote enabled “Black Second” Democrat Furnifold Simmons, to defeat incumbent Representative James O’Hara and another black candidate, Israel Abbott, in 1886.  In 1888 Henry Cheatham ran for Congress as a Republican in North Carolina’s Second Congressional District.  Cheatham won back the “Black Second” district in eastern North Carolina, recapturing the seat formerly held by Representatives John Hyman and James O’Hara. The race was unpleasant. Unable to depend on the divided vote that aided Simmons in 1886, district Democrats used white North Carolinians’ racial fears against Cheatham.8 The black candidate fought back, warning black voters that Democrats wanted to return them to slavery.9 Cheatham defeated Simmons by a narrow 51 percent (a margin of roughly 600 votes).10 Across the state, Republicans had their best showing since 1872, claiming three of the state’s nine congressional seats.11


As a United States Congressman, Cheatham’s strong educational background  earned him an assignment on the Committee on Education. Cheatham also served on the Committee on Expenditures on Public Buildings in the 51st Congress. The North Carolina Representative was a behind–the–scenes legislator, focusing on his committee work and giving few speeches on the House Floor.14 Cheatham  supported Henry Cabot Lodge’s Federal Elections Bill sponsored by representatives who wished to end election violence against African American voters.  Although Cheatham’s efforts helped the measure pass in the House of Representatives, the Lodge bill was killed in the U.S. Senate.  Later, Cheatham sponsored an unsuccessful bill requiring Congress to appropriate funds for African American participation at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.  Cheatham wanted the fair’s visitors to see the demonstrable progress African Americans had made since the end of slavery. More effective at winning political concessions outside of the halls of Congress, Cheatham used his political clout to win federal posts for Republicans.  In all he secured over eighty jobs for members of his party.  His efforts were controversial, however, as African Americans and whites alike, complained that too many positions went to the “opposite” race.


Cheatham’s black constituents faced unraveling economic and political conditions. During his first term, the teetering economy in eastern North Carolina plunged into depression. The prices of two staple crops, cotton and corn, dropped dramatically, squeezing small farmers.18 Poor economic prospects led to a decline in the black voter base in Cheatham’s district. By 1890, many emigrated from the economically depressed Carolinas in search of better opportunities in Arkansas, Texas, and Mississippi. In an attempt to stem the flight, Cheatham returned to his district in the first month of the 51st Congress and appealed to his constituents.19 But disfranchisement laws—including rigid requirements for proving birthplace and heritage, which necessitated documentation many freedmen did not possess—further discouraged local blacks.20 African Americans urged Cheatham and his Republican colleagues from North Carolina, Representatives John Bower and Hamilton Ewart, to withdraw from the House Republican Conference to protest the party’s perceived indifference to their plight. Black Republican voters insisted Republican leaders should be reminded of their dependence on black voters in the South. A loyal adherent to his party, Cheatham refused their demand. In 1890, seeking to attract whites to his camp, Cheatham vowed to aid depressed farmers. He maintained his ties to black voters by railing against steel magnate Andrew Carnegie for hiring foreign laborers instead of blacks in his northern mills.25 Cheatham won re–election by roughly 1,000 votes, or 52 percent.26 He was the only Republican in the North Carolina delegation and the only black Member of the 52nd Congress (1891–1893). Despite an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, Cheatham won a plum assignment to the Committee on Agriculture.27


John Mercer Langston (R-VA) 1890-1891

John Mercer Langston, the youngest of four children, was born a free black in Louisa County, Virginia in 1829. Son of a white slaveowner and an emancipated slave woman of Indian and black ancestry. Langston gained distinction as an abolitionist, politician, and attorney. At fourteen Langston began his studies at the Preparatory Department at Oberlin College. Known for its radicalism and abolitionist politics, Oberlin was the first college in the United States to admit black and white students.  Langston completed his studies in 1849, becoming the fifth African American male to graduate from Oberlin’s Collegiate Department. After two law schools denied him admission, he studied under local abolitionists in Elyria, Ohio. In September 1854, a committee on the district court confirmed his knowledge of the law, deeming him “nearer white than black,” and admitted him to the Ohio bar.  In 1855 Langston was elected town clerk of Brownhelm Township in Ohio, becoming the first black elected official in the state.  In addition to his law practice and activities as town clerk, Langston and his brothers, Gideon and Charles, participated in the Underground Railroad.


During the Civil War, Langston recruited black volunteers for the Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment, officially the country’s first African American military unit.  In 1868 Langston moved to Washington, D.C. to help establish the nation’s first black law school at Howard University.  He became its first dean and served briefly as acting president of Howard in 1872. In 1877, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Langston U.S. minister to Haiti. In 1877, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Langston U.S. minister to Haiti.  He returned to the U.S. in 1885 and became president of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (now Virginia State University).   Settling in south–central Virginia, Langston was viewed as a celebrity by his black neighbors. In 1888, a citizen’s committee asked Langston to run for a seat in the U.S. House, representing the “Black Belt of Virginia,” a region whose population was 65 percent black Langston ran as an Independent against a white Democratic opponent.  The election results were contested for 18 months.  Langston was finally declared the winner and served the six remaining months of his term.

Langston’s experience in higher learning earned him a position on the Committee on Education.31 He immediately assisted the Republican majority by voting in favor of the controversial McKinley Tariff, a protective measure designed to drive up the price of cheap goods manufactured abroad. A Democratic newspaper commented that Langston’s position on tariffs represented “a wall about the country so high and so great that the British lion would never have been able to get over it without the aid of dynamite or a scaling ladder.”32


Returning in December 1890 as a lame duck to his first full session in Congress, Langston made his first speech on January 16, 1891. He emphasized blacks’ U.S. citizenship, condemning calls for foreign emigration and what he deemed the Democratic Party’s attempt to thwart black freedom. “Abuse us as you will, gentlemen,” Langston told Democrats, “we will increase and multiply until, instead of finding every day five hundred black babies turning their bright eyes to greet the rays of the sun, the number shall be five thousand and still go on increasing. There is no way to get rid of us. This is our native country.” Frequent, loud applause from the Republican side of the chamber interrupted Langston’s speech. Newspapers admitted that Langston’s speech rambled, but deemed him one of the most eloquent speakers on the House Floor.41 One day after his speech, Langston asked the U.S. Attorney General to send the House all documentation of suits on alleged violations of voting rights.42 The Judiciary Committee agreed to Langston’s resolution, and it was adopted in the whole House. However, the Attorney General’s office never complied, and the disfranchisement of southern freedmen continuedThomas Miller (R-SC) 1890-1891

Thomas Ezekiel Miller was born on June 17, 1849, in Ferrebeeville, South Carolina. He was raised by Richard and Mary Ferrebee Miller, both former slaves, but his fair skin color caused much speculation about his biological origins. Later in life, Miller’s apparent mixed–race heritage availed him political opportunities, but also forced him to navigate a complicated racial middle ground in the postwar South. Thomas Miller struggled his entire life to find acceptance in the black and white communities. African–American political rivals dismissed him as a white imposter attempting to take advantage of the post–Civil War black electorate. Yet, Miller, who embraced the black heritage nurtured by his adoptive parents, was also ostracized by white colleagues.3


During the Civil War, Miller delivered newspapers on a Charleston railroad line running to Savannah, Georgia. He was conscripted into the military when the Confederate Army seized the railroads. Captured by Union forces in January 1865, he spent two weeks in prison before his release. When the Civil War ended, Miller went to Hudson, New York, where once again he sold newspapers on a railroad line. He finished his education at the Hudson School, just north of New York City, before earning a scholarship to Lincoln University, a school for African–American students, in Chester County, Pennsylvania. After graduating in 1872, Miller returned to South Carolina, where he won his first elective office as school commissioner of coastal Beaufort County. He subsequently moved to Columbia and studied law at the newly integrated University of South Carolina. He continued his studies under the tutelage of state solicitor P. L. Wiggins and state supreme court justice Franklin L. Moses, Sr., a future governor of South Carolina. Admitted to the bar in December 1875, Miller set up his practice in Beaufort, South Carolina. Shortly after moving to Beaufort, Thomas Miller was elected to the state general assembly, where he served until 1880 before securing a term in the state senate.


Miller was deeply involved in attempts to revive the flagging South Carolina Republican Party after Reconstruction ended in 1877. He was a member of the Republican state executive committee from 1878 to 1880 and the state party chairman in 1884. Miller also was a customs inspector and served on the state militia throughout the 1880s before returning to the state house of representatives in 1886 for one year. In 1888, Miller entered the race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that was formerly occupied by black Representative and Civil War hero Robert Smalls. The “shoestring district” was thus named because its narrow borders twisted from Sumter County in the center of the state to Georgetown and parts of Charleston on the coast.6 Covering the black belt of South Carolina, including the center of the state’s pre–Civil War rice and cotton plantations, the gerrymandered district boasted a population that was 82 percent black. Facing the incumbent, Miller received financial backing from Randall D. George, one of the wealthiest black men in the state, who made his money distributing rosins and turpentine in the region.9 Representative Elliott was initially declared the winner by slightly more than 1,000 votes in a light turnout, with 54 percent to Miller’s 45 percent.10  Miller contested the election, charging that many registered black voters were prohibited from casting their ballots. He vehemently opposed the “eight box ballot law,” a state statute that required multiple ballot boxes at each polling station to confuse black voters.11 Though the Republican–dominated Committee on Elections in the 51st Congress ruled in Miller’s favor, his case did not come up on the House Floor until September 23, 1890, immediately after a vote seating Virginia’s first black Representative, John Langston. Inspired by their success seating Langston (complicated by Democrats, who deserted the House Chamber in an effort to prevent a quorum), House Republicans decided to take up Miller’s claim. The House seated Miller by a vote of 157 to 1. He was sworn in the following day and given a position on the Committee on Labor.13


South Carolina followed Mississippi in black voter disenfranchisement by enforcing the ability to read and write the Constitution or to own property worth at least $300.00, a move that directly reduced Miller’s African American support.


George Murray (R-SC) 1893-1895, 1896-1897


George Washington Murray was born on September 22, 1853, near Rembert, in Sumter County, South Carolina. in 1874 he entered the University of South Carolina in Columbia after it was opened to black students by the Republican state government.4 After federal withdrawal from the South following the end of Reconstruction in 1877, Murray and the other black students were forced out of the university. He eventually graduated from the nearby State Normal Institution. Working as a farmer, a teacher, and a lecturer in Sumter County, Murray obtained eight patents for various farming tools.6 His farming success garnered him local recognition, and his selection as the Sumter County delegate to the 1880 Republican Party state convention sparked his interest in politics.


In 1892, Murray ran for the congressional seat. Conducting a campaign that emphasized his African roots (his opponent, Thomas Miller, was light–skinned), Murray defeated Miller and white candidate E. W. Brayton to capture the Republican nomination.8 Though the “shoestring district” had been modified slightly by reapportionment, nearly 75 percent of the population was black.9 During the general election, especially in areas outside Charleston, precinct workers rejected votes for Murray for insignificant reasons, for example, the candidate’s ballots were one–eighth or three–sixteenths of an inch too short, the ballot boxes were not opened at the appointed time, or the precinct managers failed to record the name of the precinct before sending the election returns to Columbia.10 However, Murray’s chances were strengthened by divisions within the district’s Democratic Party. Canvassers for the state board of election (Democratic supporters of Governor Tillman) confirmed that Murray was victorious by 40 votes.11 He received an assignment to the Committee on Education, but most of Murray’s work in Congress was outside the jurisdiction of this committee.



Murray’s position as the only black Member during his two terms in Congress defined his career. One of the first things he did after arriving in Washington was to visit newly inaugurated Democratic President Grover Cleveland. In a personal meeting with the President, Murray told Cleveland that southern blacks were concerned about their welfare under a Democratic President but that the new administration had a fresh opportunity to welcome African Americans into the Democratic Party. Murray asked Cleveland to consider appointing more blacks to political offices through patronage, but neither the President nor his congressional allies prioritized building political capital among black Americans.12


In 1894, Murray faced an uphill battle for re–election to the 54th Congress. The South Carolina legislature dissolved the “shoestring district,” cutting off much of Charleston and Murray’s black voting base.21 Democratic infighting ceased when former Representative William Elliott won the Democratic nomination. Elliott emerged with 60 percent of the vote in the general election, but several precincts reported instances of fraud.22 Murray appealed to the state board of election canvassers, but they rejected his claim.


As a result, Murray spent the third session of the 53rd Congress (1893–1895) preparing to contest Elliott’s election before the House. He submitted a massive amount of testimony indicating election fraud; the paperwork was reported to be nearly a foot thick.23 Murray’s evidence revealed that ballot boxes in three of four heavily Republican counties in his new district were never opened, that black voters were issued fraudulent registration certificates or paperwork was withheld entirely, and that precincts in black regions failed to open. Witnesses also reported that William Elliott himself stood in front of ballot boxes taunting black men and preventing them from submitting their votes. The worst fraud occurred in the small portion of southern Charleston that remained in Murray’s district. A precinct compromising 2,000 more registered black voters than white declared 2,811 votes for Elliott and 397 for Murray.24 After reviewing the testimony, the House Committee on Elections—composed of a strong Republican majority—concluded that the final victory belonged to Murray by 434 votes.



In 1893, when Representative Henry Tucker of Virginia authored a bill to remove impartial election supervisors and federal marshals from southern polling places, Murray fearlessly sought to block the legislation.15 On several occasions, he interrupted Tucker’s allies on the House Floor, citing personal experiences of discrimination.16 On October 2, 1893, Murray interrupted freshman Representative (and future Speaker) Beauchamp (Champ) Clark of Missouri, who was insisting that state officials adequately monitored polling places. Murray noted that these officials were often prejudiced appointees of white supremacist Democratic state governments. He also refuted Clark’s claim that federal Republican officials coerced black voters into voting as one bloc. Three days later, Murray made a long speech against Representative Tucker’s legislation. He ended by repeating his plea to President Cleveland: “While I can not persuade myself that there can be found here and in the Senate enough cruel and wicked men to make this law effective, still if I am disappointed in that…I hope that the broad–souled and philanthropic man occupying the Executive chair is too brave and humane to join in this cowardly onslaught to strike down the walls impaling the last vestige of liberty to a helpless class of people.”17 A long thunderous bout of applause from the Republican side of the chamber followed Murray’s speech, which earned him the epithet the “Black Eagle of Sumter.”18

Political trouble at home prevented Murray from attending the final two sessions of the 54th Congress. In 1895, Tillman Democrats in the state legislature passed a referendum to revise the 1868 state constitution. Murray tried to organize black voters to elect sympathetic delegates to the constitutional convention, but only six black delegates were sent, including former Representatives Robert Smalls and Thomas Miller. The results were disastrous for black South Carolina voters. The primarily white, Democratic convention created new requirements for proving residency, instituted poll taxes, established property requirements, and created literacy tests—all aimed at disfranchising black voters.26


George Henry White (R-NC) 1897-1901

George White was born in 1852 in Rosindale, Bladen County, North Carolina, where his natural mother may have been a slave.[1] His father Wiley Franklin White was a free person of color, of African and Scots-Irish ancestry, who worked as a laborer in a turpentine camp. White graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1877, and was admitted to the bar in 1879.  White practiced law and served as the Principal of the State Normal School of North Carolina until he entered politics . In 1880 White ran as a Republican candidate from New Bern and was elected to a single term in the North Carolina House of Representatives. He helped pass a law creating four state normal schools for African Americans in order to train more teachers, and was appointed in 1881 as the principal of one of the schools in New Bern. He helped develop the school in its early years and encourage students to go into teaching.


In 1884 White returned to politics, winning election to the North Carolina Senate from Craven County. In 1886, he was elected solicitor and prosecuting attorney for the second judicial district of North Carolina, a post he held for eight years until 1894.


In 1888 and 1890, White reluctantly deferred candidacy for the district’s congressional seat to his brother–in–law Representative Henry Cheatham, whose calculated, conciliatory demeanor contrasted with White’s forthright, demanding, and unyielding personality.7 Cheatham lost his 1892 re–election campaign, and though the two men had an uneasy relationship, they were not outright political enemies until White made a serious bid for the “Black Second” congressional seat in 1894.8 Cheatham planned to capitalize on the redistricting that added a large number of black voters in north–central Vance and Craven counties to the existing district. Amicability between the brothers–in–law disintegrated until 1898, when Cheatham relented, supporting White for a second term.


In 1896 he was elected to the U.S. Congress representing the predominantly black Second District from his residence in Tarboro.  White served during what historian Rayford Logan has termed the nadir in race relations for the post-Reconstruction South. He was the last African-American Congressman during the beginning of the Jim Crow era and the only African American to serve in Congress during his tenure. The Democrats had regained control of the state legislature in the 1870s, but black candidates continued to be elected from some districts and locally. As a Congressman, a well-educated veteran politician and advocate of racial justice, White served as a spokesman for African Americans at the turn of the twentieth century On January 20, 1900, White introduced the another bill in Congress to make lynching a federal crime to be prosecuted by federal courts; it died in committee, opposed by southern white Democrats, who were making up the Solid South block.[21 White used the power of his office to appoint several African-American postmasters across his district, with the assistance of the state’s Republican senator, Jeter C. Pritchard. They were able to make patronage hires, as did other postmasters.


Indicating that he was well aware that he would be the last black Congressman for some time, White eloquently described the impact and illogical nature of white racism in his “Defense of the Negro Race—Charges Answered,” speech delivered in the U.S. House of Representatives on January 29, 1901.  In his speech, white argued that his Euro-American colleagues defied the U.S. Constitution when they encouraged racial violence, flamed the fires of racial animosity, and encouraged passage of laws which denied to African Americans privileges preserved for them in the Fourteenth and Fifteen Amendments. He condemned the tendency among some Democratic Congressmen to publicly extol the negative attributes of a few African American individuals as representative of the entire race. And finally he said:

“This is perhaps the Negroes’ temporary farewell to the American Congress, but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again. These parting words are in behalf of an outraged, heart-broken, bruised and bleeding, but God-fearing people; faithful, industrious, loyal, rising people – full of potential force.”


After disenfranchisement was achieved in new state constitutions and laws from 1890 to 1908, no African American would be elected to Congress from the South until Barbara Jordan from Texas and Andrew Young from Georgia in 1972 following the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 during the Civil Rights Movement.




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BHM 2018 #8: Black Politicians during Reconstruction

There is a wealth of information on the Internet about African-Americans in politics during Reconstruction. Entire books have been written about it. A part of it is an effort to rebut images of the black politicians during the Reconstruction era as lazy, corrupt and ignorant, as portrayed in “Birth of a Nation” and “Gone with the Wind”. Another reason for chronicling the period and the individuals is because, frankly, it’s fascinating.

Before the Civil War began, African Americans had only been able to vote in a few northern states, and there were virtually no black officeholders. The months after the Union victory in April 1865 saw extensive mobilization within the black community, with meetings, parades and petitions calling for legal and political rights, including the all-important right to vote.

During the first two years of Reconstruction, blacks organized Equal Rights Leagues throughout the South African Americans in South Carolina had been organizing politically longer than those living in most other states, and many blacks were elected to early state conventions there. In Norfolk, VA on April 4, 1865, the Colored Monitor Union Club was established to obtain all the rights of citizenship, including “the right of universal suffrage to all loyal men, without distinction of color, and to memorialize the Congress of the United States to allow the colored citizens the equal right of franchise with other citizens.” The men met again later in April and several times in May. At the same time, African Americans were organizing in other communities. Hampton, VA residents founded a Union League in March, and Williamsburg, VA residents founded a Colored Union League in May. In Richmond, VA on May 9, 1865, community leaders created the Colored Men’s Equal Rights League of Richmond, an affiliate of the National Equal Rights League that had been founded in 1864. “The objects of this League,” the organizers of the Richmond chapter proclaimed, “are to encourage sound morality, education, temperance, frugality, industry, and promote everything that pertains to a well-ordered and dignified life, and to obtain by appeals to the minds and consciences of the American people, or by legal process when possible, a recognition of the rights of the colored people of the Nation as American citizens.”

African American activists bitterly opposed the Reconstruction policies of President Andrew Johnson, which excluded blacks from southern politics and allowed state legislatures to pass restrictive “black codes” regulating the lives of the freed men and women. Fierce resistance to these discriminatory laws, as well as growing opposition to Johnson’s policies in the North, led to a Republican victory in the U.S. congressional elections of 1866 and to a new phase of Reconstruction that would give African Americans a more active role in the political, economic and social life of the South.

In 1867, Congress passed a law requiring the former Confederate states to include black male suffrage in their new state constitutions. Ironically, even though African American men began voting in the South after 1867, the majority of Northern states continued to deny them this basic right.

As more African Americans were allowed to participate in American political life, organizations like the growing Union League supported black political activism in the South. Beginning in 1867, blacks took part in state constitutional conventions for the first time and comprised the vast majority of Republican voters in the South.

In Virginia, the first election in which black men voted and those votes were counted was for delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868, to which they elected two dozen of their own. Beginning in 1869, African Americans began to be elected to the General Assembly, mostly as Republicans and later as members of the biracial Readjuster Party. Some black politicians were more radical than others, but they generally advocated black civil rights, access to free public schools, and a refinancing of the state’s large antebellum debt.

In July 1867 twenty whites and 150 blacks attended a Republican convention in Houston, TX where they endorsed free common schools and free homesteads from public lands for blacks and whites alike. Thus began a decades-long tradition of black Republicanism in the state. many black men registered for the first election in which they could participate-the 1868 referendum on whether to hold another constitutional convention and elect delegates. More blacks than whites cast ballots, and, with their white allies, they overcame the opposition of the majority of white voters and voted to hold another convention. The Convention of 1868–69qv, dominated by Republicans, included ten African-American delegates out of ninety. All ten were active on committees and presented important resolutions. Though frustrated in attempts to secure certain constitutional safeguards for their people, they contributed to the accomplishments of the convention, which paved the way for the readmission of Texas to the Union in March 1870.

However, in the North, the Republican’s once-huge voter majority over the Democratic Party was declining. Radical Republican leaders feared that they might lose control of Congress to the Democrats.

One solution to this problem called for including the black man’s vote in all Northern states.
Republicans assumed the new black voters would vote Republican just as their brothers were doing in the South. By increasing its voters in the North and South, the Republican Party could then maintain its stronghold in Congress.

The Republicans, however, faced an incredible dilemma. The idea of blacks voting was not popular in the North. In fact, several Northern states had recently voted against black male suffrage.
In May 1868, the Republicans held their presidential nominating convention in Chicago and chose Ulysses S. Grant as their candidate. The Republicans agreed that African-American male suffrage continued to be a requirement for the Southern states, but decided that the Northern states should settle this issue for themselves.

Grant was victorious in the election of 1868, but this popular general won by a surprisingly slim margin. It was clear to Republican leaders that if they were to remain in power, their party needed the votes of black men in the North.

When the new year began in 1869, the Republicans were ready to introduce a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the black man’s right to vote. For two months, Congress considered the proposed amendment. Several versions of the amendment were submitted, debated, rejected and then reconsidered in both the House and Senate.

Finally, at the end of February 1869, Congress approved a compromise amendment that did not even specifically mention the black man:
Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

In a speech before the Massachusetts AntiSlavery Society, Frederick Douglass explained why the black man wanted the right to vote “in every state of the Union”:
It is said that we are ignorant; admit it. But if we know enough to be hung, we know enough to vote. If the Negro knows enough to pay taxes to support government, he knows enough to vote; taxation and representation should go together. If he knows enough to shoulder a musket and fight for the flag for the government, he knows enough to vote ….What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice.

While Congress debated the 15th Amendment early in 1869, 150 black men from 17 states assembled for a convention in Washington, D.C. This was the first national meeting of black Americans in the history of the United States. Frederick Douglass was elected president of the convention.

On March 30, President Grant officially proclaimed the 15th Amendment as part of the Constitution. Washington and many other American cities celebrated. More than 10,000 blacks paraded through Baltimore. In a speech on May 5, 1870, Frederick Douglass rejoiced. “What a country — fortunate in its institutions, in its 15th Amendment, in its future.”

During Reconstruction, about 2,000 African American men served in political office. Hundreds of blacks held local offices in the South, more than 600 were elected to state legislatures, and 16 served in Congress, 2 in the Senate and 14 in the House of Representatives.

So long as whites remained divided, the black electoral minority capitalized on cleavages to maintain their political influence and shape urban politics. Many African-American communities practiced politics in a system characterized by segregation and white supremacy. Political influence was hard-won through pragmatic activism that mandated shifting alliances among different groups of blacks and whites. The local aspect of black enfranchisement which was more complex than either legislation or electoral results indicate at the national level.

At least 226 black Mississippians held public office during Reconstruction, compared to only 46 blacks in Arkansas and 20 in Tennessee. Mississippi sent the first two (and only) black senators of this period to Congress.

Between 1867 and 1895, nearly 100 black Virginians served in the two houses of the General Assembly or in the Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868.

South Carolina had the most elected officials – 315.South Carolina had the largest black population, at least in percentage terms—about 57 to 58 percent of the population of the state was African American in Reconstruction These 315 served in every kind of position—at the federal level, the state level, and the local level. Six black men served in Congress from South Carolina during Reconstruction. There were also U.S. tax assessors, pension agents, postmasters, customs officials. 210 African Americans served in the lower house of the state legislature and 29 in the state senate—a very hefty representation. And South Carolina is the only state that had a black majority in the legislature during Reconstruction. At the top of the state level, there were two black lieutenant governors, the treasurer, and secretary of state. Then there were numerous local officials ranging from justice of the peace, sheriff, and school board officials

Blacks made up the overwhelming majority of southern Republican voters, forming a coalition with “carpetbaggers” and “scalawags” (derogatory terms referring to recent arrivals from the North and southern white Republicans, respectively). A total of 265 African-American delegates were elected, more than 100 of whom had been born into slavery. Almost half of the elected black delegates served in South Carolina and Louisiana, where blacks had the longest history of political organization; in most other states, African Americans were underrepresented compared to their population.

Many black leaders during Reconstruction had gained their freedom before the Civil War (by self-purchase or through the will of a deceased owner), had worked as skilled slave artisans or had served in the Union Army. A large number of black political leaders came from the church, having worked as ministers during slavery or in the early years of Reconstruction, when the church served as the center of the black community. The background of these men was typical of the leaders that emerged during Reconstruction, but differed greatly from that of the majority of the African American population.

Some ran for office as representatives of their race, others as exemplars of the ideal that, with the end of slavery and the advent of legal equality, race no longer mattered. Reconstruction’s black Congressmen did not see themselves simply as spokesmen for the black community. Blanche Bruce was one of the more conservative black leaders; yet in the Senate he spoke out for more humane treatment of Native Americans and opposed legislation banning immigration from China.

As the most radical aspect of the so-called Radical Reconstruction period, the political activism of the African American community also inspired the most hostility from Reconstruction’s opponents. Southern whites frustrated with policies giving former slaves the right to vote and hold office increasingly turned to intimidation and violence as a means of reaffirming white supremacy. A number of black Congressmen faced death threats and defended themselves by posting armed guards at their homes. Southern whites used many forms of intimidation to oppose black voters, politicians, policies, and rights. . The foremost of these organizations was the Ku Klux Klan. Established in Tennessee in 1866, the Klan became a violent paramilitary organization that often promoted planters’ interests and the Democratic Party. The Ku Klux Klan targeted local Republican leaders and blacks who challenged their white employers.. Klansmen hid beneath costumes meant to represent the ghosts of Confederate soldiers, but they often unmasked themselves when committing violence. This act sent a chilling message to their victims: Klansmen thought they could murder with impunity, because local authorities were unwilling or unable to stop them. For example, in Mississippi, courts, black churches, and schools became frequent targets of racial violence. In Meridian three black leaders were arrested in 1871 for making “incendiary” speeches. During the black men’s trial, Klansmen shot up the courtroom, killing the Republican judge and two defendants. The violence sparked a bloodbath in Meridian; white rioters picked out dozens of black leaders and murdered them in cold blood. In Vicksburg, MS white supremacists formed the White Man’s party, patrolled the streets with guns, and convinced black voters to stay home on election day. In Georgia, one quarter of the black legislators were killed, threatened, beaten, or jailed.

In 1876, when the election for president ended with a dispute over electoral votes, the Republicans made a deal with the Southern Democrats. First, the Southerners agreed to support Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes for president. In turn, the Republicans promised to withdraw troops from the South and abandon federal enforcement of black’s rights, including the right to vote.

Within a few years, the Southern state governments required blacks to pay voting taxes, pass literacy tests and endure many other unfair restrictions on their right to vote. In Mississippi, 67 percent of the black adult men were registered to vote in 1867; by 1892 only 4 percent were registered. The political deal to secure Hayes as president rendered the 15th Amendment meaningless. Another 75 years passed before black voting rights were again enforced in the South.

For many decades, historians viewed Reconstruction as the lowest point in the American experience, a time of corruption and misgovernment presided over by unscrupulous carpetbaggers from the North, ignorant former slaves and traitorous scalawags (white Southerners who supported the new governments in the South).

To the critics of Reconstruction, the fact that black men were in office was one of the great horrors of that period. The Democratic press called these legislatures and constitutional conventions “menageries” and “monkey houses.” They ridiculed former slaves who thought themselves competent to frame a code of laws. They said that these officials were ignorant, illiterate, propertyless,

Mythologies about black officeholders formed a central pillar of this outlook. Their alleged incompetence and venality illustrated the larger “crime” of Reconstruction–placing power in the hands of a race incapable of participating in American democracy. D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film Birth of a Nation included a scene in which South Carolina’s black legislators downed alcohol and propped their bare feet on their desks while enacting laws. Claude Bowers, in The Tragic Era, a bestseller of the 1920s that did much to form popular consciousness about Reconstruction, offered a similar portrait. To Griffith and Bowers, the incapacity of black officials justified the violence of the Ku Klux Klan and the eventual disenfranchisement of Southern black voters.

Historians have long since demolished this racist portrait of the era. Today Reconstruction is viewed as a noble if flawed experiment, a forerunner of the modern struggle for racial justice. If the era was tragic, it was not because Reconstruction was attempted but because the effort to construct an interracial democracy on the ruins of slavery failed.

The 14 Black members of the House of Representatives during Reconstruction were:
Joseph Rainey (R-SC)1870-1879.
Jefferson Long (R-GA) 1871
Robert Delaney (R-SC) 1871-1873
Robert Elliott (R-SC) 1871-1874
Benjamin Turner (R-AL) 1871-1873
Josiah Walls (R-FL) 1871-1876
Richard Cain (R-SC) 1873-1879
John Lynch (R-MS) 1873-1877 & 1882-1883
Alonzo Ransier (R-SC) 1873-1875
James Rapier (R-AL) 1873-1875
Jeremiah Haralson (R-AL) 1875-1877
John Adams Hyman (R-NC) 1875-1877
Charles Nash (R-LA) 1875-1877
Robert Smalls (R-SC) 1875-79, 1882-83, 1884-87

Joseph Rainey (R-SC)1870-1879.
Born into slavery, his father Edward Rainey, a barber by trade, used his earnings to buy his family’s freedom. The Confederate Army called Rainey to service when the Civil War broke out in 1861. In 1862, Rainey and his wife escaped to Bermuda. Rainey returned to Charleston in 1866. The wealth Rainey acquired in Bermuda elevated his status in the community, and he was looked upon as a leader; he soon became active in the Republican Party. in 1870 he won a seat in the state senate, where he immediately became chairman of the finance committee. In February 1870, the Republican Party nominated Rainey for the remainder of Whittemore’s term in the 41st Congress (1869–1871) and for a full term in the 42nd Congress (1871–1873). On October 19, 1870, Rainey won the full term, topping Democrat C. W. Dudley by a substantial majority (63 percent). On November 8, he defeated Dudley once again, garnering more than 86 percent of the vote, in a special election to fill the seat for the remainder of the 41st Congress.5

Joseph Rainey was the first African American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, the first African American to preside over the House, and the longest–serving African American during the tumultuous Reconstruction period. While Rainey’s representation—like that of the other 21 black Representatives of the era—was symbolic, he also demonstrated the political nuance of a seasoned, substantive Representative, balancing his defense of southern blacks’ civil rights by extending amnesty to the defeated Confederates.

Rainey advocated for his constituents—both black and white. He used his growing political clout to influence the South Carolina state legislature to retain the customs duty on rice, the chief export of the district and the state. He also submitted a petition to improve Charleston Harbor and fought against an appropriations cut for Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter in Charleston. However, Rainey’s committee appointments and policies reflected his desire to defend black civil rights, and his loyalty to the Republican Party. Rainey received seats on three standing committees: Freedmen’s Affairs (41st–43rd Congresses), Indian Affairs (43rd Congress), and Invalid Pensions (44th–45th Congresses, 1875–1879). He also served on several select committees, including the Select Committee on the Centennial Celebration and the Proposed National Census of 1875 (44th Congress) and the Committee on the Freedmen’s Bank (44th Congress).

Rainey’s work on the Committee on Freedmen’s Affairs—created in 1865 to handle all legislation concerning newly freed slaves—earned him the most recognition.6 On April 1, 1871, he delivered his first major speech, arguing for the use of federal troops to protect southern blacks from the recently organized Ku Klux Klan. Enumerating the dangers of returning home to South Carolina on congressional breaks, exposing himself to violence by the Red Shirts—a virulent South Carolina white supremacist organization—Rainey said, “When myself and my colleagues shall leave these Halls and turn our footsteps toward our southern homes, we know not that the assassin may await our coming, as marked for his vengeance.”7 The Ku Klux Klan Act was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on April 20, 1871, but the bill failed to stop Klan terrorism.8 After his speech, Rainey received a letter written in red ink instructing him and other advocates of black civil rights to “prepare to meet your God.”9 White southerners virtually ignored the Ku Klux Klan Act, and congressional opponents circumvented its provisions by eliminating funding. In March of 1872, Rainey found himself arguing for the federal appropriations needed to enforce the act.10

Jefferson Long (R-GA) 1871
Jefferson Long was born to a slave mother on March 3, 1836, in Knoxville, a small town in west–central Georgia. Long’s father was believed to have been the son of a local white man.3 Defying the law, Long learned to read and write. Trained as a tailor, he opened a successful business in Macon, Georgia, after his emancipation following the end of the Civil War. Most of his clients were white, as they were the only rural Georgians able to afford custom–made clothing His prosperous tailor shop catered to politically connected clients and provided him the resources to become involved in Republican politics. Starting in 1866, Long began promoting literacy among African Americans, and in 1867, he became active in the Georgia Educational Association, formed to protect and advance the interests of freedmen. Long also belonged to the Macon Union League, a grass–roots political action group. A dazzling orator, he introduced Georgian freedmen to politics by preaching the virtues of the Republican Party. While traveling the state, organizing local Republican branches, and encouraging black voters to register, Long brought many whites into the Republican fold.

Congress delayed Georgia’s re–entry into the Union because the state legislature refused to ratify the 14th Amendment, and white Republicans and Conservatives expelled 29 legally elected black members from the Georgia legislature in September 1868. Conditions for readmission included reseating the black members and ratification of the 15th Amendment. In July 1870, these terms were agreed to, and a Georgia delegation was permitted to return to Congress. A special election to fill the delegation’s seats for the remainder of the 41st Congress (1869–1871) was set for the same day—December 20, 1870—as the election for a full term to the 42nd Congress (1871–1873). The Georgia Republican Party chose black candidates to run for the abbreviated terms, reserving the full term for white candidates. In the state’s central district, the party nominated Long for the 41st Congress and state senator Thomas Jefferson Speer for the 42nd Congress. The night before the election, Long gave a series of speeches across the district, encouraging black voters to support the Republican ticket. The following day, he rallied a large number of blacks from Macon and marched with them to the polls. Armed whites were waiting, and a riot broke out. Long was unharmed, but four others were killed, and most blacks left the polls without voting. The unusual election lasted three days. White politicians accused blacks of voting multiple times and spread rumors that African Americans from South Carolina and Alabama had crossed state lines to vote. But despite the election’s inconsistencies, Long defeated his opponent, Democrat Winburn J. Lawton, garnering 12,867 votes (53 percent). However, he was not sworn in until January 16, 1871, because of complications related to Georgia’s readmission to the Union.7 Long took his seat one month after Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina was seated in the House.

Long’s term was so short he was not assigned to any committees, yet he was determined to fight for the civil rights of freed slaves. On February 1, 1871, he became the first African–American Representative to speak before the House when he disagreed with a bill that exempted former Confederate politicians from swearing allegiance to the Constitution.8 Long argued against allowing unrepentant Confederates to return to Congress, noting that many belonged to secret societies like the Ku Klux Klan, which intimidated black citizens, and feigned loyalty to rebuild political strength. “If this House removes the disabilities of disloyal men,” Long warned, “I venture to prophesy you will again have trouble from the very same men who gave you trouble before.”9. “Do we, then, really propose here to–day … when loyal men dare not carry the ‘stars and stripes’ through our streets … to relieve from political disability the very men who have committed these Kuklux [sic] outrages?” he declared on the House Floor. “I think that I am doing my duty to my constituents and my duty to my country when I vote against such a proposition.”2 Many major newspapers reported on Long’s address, and northern newspapers, especially, commended his oratorical skills. Long was the last black Representative elected from Georgia until Representative Andrew Young won a seat in 1972.

Robert C. DeLarge (R-SC) 1871-1873

Robert Carlos De Large was born on March 15, 1842, in Aiken, South Carolina. Although some records indicate De Large was born a slave, he likely was the offspring of free mulatto parents. The De Large family owned slaves and, as members of the free mulatto elite, were afforded opportunities denied their darker–skinned neighbors. Robert De Large was educated at a North Carolina primary school and attended Wood High School in Charleston, South Carolina. He later married and had a daughter, Victoria.3

De Large was a tailor and a farmer before gaining lucrative employment with the Confederate Navy during the Civil War. Perhaps regretting the source of his financial windfall, De Large later donated most of his wartime earnings to the Republican Party.4 Nevertheless, by 1870 he had amassed a fortune that exceeded $6,500. He moved within Charleston’s highest circles and joined the Brown Fellowship Society, an exclusive organization for mullatos. After the war, De Large worked for the Republican state government as an agent in the Freedmen’s Bureau. He became an organizer for the South Carolina Republican Party, serving on important committees at several state conventions. He chaired the credentials committee at the 1865 Colored People’s Convention at Charleston’s Zion Church. In 1868, De Large won his first elected office, serving in the state house of representatives where he chaired the ways and means committee. In 1870, De Large set his sights on a congressional district representing Charleston and the southeastern portion of the state. He secured the Republican nomination over incumbent scalawag Christopher Bowen, a former Confederate soldier and one of Governor Scott’s most formidable political enemies De Large’s unvarnished comments on the House Floor about local party corruption caused him to run afoul of state Republicans. De Large participated sparingly in House Floor debate during the second session, as he was occupied defending his seat. The House Committee on Elections began consideration of Christopher Bowen’s challenge to his election in December 1871, and De Large took a leave of absence in April 1872 to prepare his defense. The rigors of defending his seat in the 42nd Congress took a toll on De Large’s fragile health and left him few options other than retirement. Black politician Alonzo Ransier won his seat. De Large returned to the state capital in Columbia and later moved to Charleston after Governor Scott appointed him magistrate of that city. He died of tuberculosis shortly thereafter on February 14, 1874, at the age of 31.

Robert Elliott (R-SC) 1871-1874
Robert Elliott was born on August 11, 1842, likely to West Indian parents in Liverpool, England.3 He received a public school education in England and learned a typesetter’s trade. Robert Elliott was intellectually gifted and well–educated. He often quoted classical literature and demonstrated facility with several languages. He quickly dove into Reconstruction–Era Republican politics in his new South Carolina home, emerging as a leading figure at the 1868 state constitutional convention. “Elliott knew the political condition of every nook and corner of the state. He knew every important person in every county, village, or town. He knew the history of the entire State as it related to politics.” Some think, said another newspaper, that “he is the ablest Negro intellectually in the South One of 78 black delegates at the convention, he advocated compulsory public education (although he opposed school integration) and helped defeat the imposition of a poll tax and a literacy test for voters.

Later in 1868, while serving as the only black member of the Barnwell County board of commissioners, Elliott was elected to the state house of representatives, where he remained until 1870. During his tenure in the state assembly, Elliott used his keen intelligence and ambition to study law and was admitted to the South Carolina bar in September 1868. In October 1870, Republicans in a west–central South Carolina congressional district nominated Robert Elliott to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The district included the capital, Columbia, and had only a slight black majority. White colleagues received Elliott coolly. His dark skin came as a shock, as the two other African Americans on the floor, Joseph Rainey and Jefferson Long, were light–skinned mulattos. Described as the first “genuine African” in Congress, Elliott seemed to embody the new political opportunities—and southern white apprehensions—ushered in by emancipation. “I shall never forget [my first day in Congress],” Elliott later recalled. “I found myself the center of attraction. Everything was still.”8 Furthermore, his politics were more radical than his African–American colleagues’, and his unwavering stance for black civil rights made many Representatives of both parties wary of his intentions. Elliott was given a position on the Committee on Education and Labor, where he served during both of his terms.

Elliott’s efforts to enact legislation to weaken the Klan were more successful. In his April 1 speech, he read the letter posted by the Klansmen at the Union Courthouse jail, following it with words about the prejudice against his race: “It is custom, sir, of Democratic [newspapers] to stigmatize the negroes of the South as being in a semi–barbarous condition; but pray tell me, who is the barbarian here, the murderer or the victim? I fling back in the teeth of those who make it this most false and foul aspersion upon the negro of the southern States.”10 The Third Ku Klux Klan Bill, which reinforced freedmen’s voting rights, passed and was signed into law three weeks later. The following October, President Ulysses S. Grant used the powers granted him by the bill to suspend habeas corpus in nine southern states, facilitating the prosecution of Klansmen.

During his second term, Elliott worked to help pass Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner’s Civil Rights Bill, to eliminate discrimination from public transportation, public accommodations, and schools. Elliott gained national attention for a speech rebuffing opponents of the bill, who argued that federal enforcement of civil rights was unconstitutional. Responding to former Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens of Georgia, who had been re–elected to the House, Elliott reaffirmed his belief in the right and duty of Congress to legislate against discrimination.

Benjamin Turner (R-AL) 1871-1873
Benjamin Sterling Turner, was born on March 17, 1825 in Weldon, North Carolina. He was raised as a slave and as a child received no formal education. In 1830 Turner moved to Selma, Alabama with his mother and slave owner. While living on the plantation he surreptitiously obtained an education and by age 20 Turner was able to read and write fluently.

While still a slave Turner managed a hotel and stable in Selma. Although his owner received most of the money for Turner’s work, he managed to save some of his earnings and shortly after the Civil War he used the savings he had accumulated to purchase the property. The U.S. Census of 1870 reported Turner as owning $2,500 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property, making him one of the wealthiest freedmen in Alabama.

Turner also became a teacher in 1865 and helped establish the first school for African American children. Two years later he became involved in politics. After participating in the Republican State Convention in 1867, Turner was named tax collector of Dallas County. The following year he won his first elective office when he became a Selma City Councilman. In 1870 Turner was elected to the United States Congress as the first African American Representative in Alabama history.

While in office Turner proposed bills that contributed funding for Civil War-related damages to several federal buildings in central Alabama and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Turner was also appointed to the House Committee on Invalid Pensions and was responsible for issuing pensions to Union war veterans. Through his influence African American veterans received a pension of eight dollars a month.

Josiah Walls (R-FL) 1871-1876

Josiah T. Walls was born a slave in Winchester, Virginia on December 30, 1842. He was conscripted by the Confederate Army and captured in Yorktown by Union forces in 1862. Walls then enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops Infantry Regiment in 1863 where he rose in rank to First Sergeant.

After leaving the U.S. Army, Walls settled in Alachua County, Florida and became active in local politics. After passage of the U.S. Military Reconstruction Act of 1867, Walls joined the newly formed Republican Party in Florida.

Walls’s six year tenure as a U.S. Congressman was filled with controversy. He was the only black representative unseated three times by opponents challenging his elections in 1870, 1872, and 1874 including J.J. Finley, a former Confederate General. Despite these disputed elections, Walls compiled a legislative record which included introducing bills favoring land grants to railroads and securing connections to ports servicing Cuba and the West Indies. Walls also submitted measures to reinforce the Civil Rights Act of 1866. After serving in Congress he returned to the Florida State legislature and resumed farming on his 175 acre plantation near Gainesville, Florida he had acquired in 1873. Walls also purchased a newspaper, The New Era. Walls remained active in politics serving at various times as mayor of Gainesville, a member of the County Board of Public Instruction and County Commissioner.

Richard Cain (R-SC) 1873-1879

Richard Harvey Cain was born a free black in Greenbrier County, Virginia on April 12, 1825. In 1831 his parents moved to Gallipolis, Ohio where he attended school. Seventeen years later, in 1848, he joined the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and became a minister in Muscatine, Iowa. Cain moved to South Carolina in 1865 to lead a Charleston AME church and soon became involved in local politics. In 1868, he was elected a member of the South Carolina State Constitutional Convention. Later in the year he was elected to the South Carolina State Senate, a post he held until 1870.

In 1872, Richard Harvey Cain was elected to South Carolina’s at large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Cain served on the Agriculture Committee in the 43rd Congress. He is most remembered, however, for his support of a civil rights bill introduced into the House in 1870. Although the bill failed to be enacted, during the debate he spoke eloquently and passionately about his own experiences during a trip to the nation’s capital where he was denied first class accommodations on a train. By 1874, Cain’s at large seat was eliminated and he chose not so seek another office that year. He continued, however, to be actively involved in the South Carolina Republican Party and in 1876 he returned to Congress representing the 2nd district of South Carolina. Cain served one term and then returned to his ministerial duties in Charleston. In 1880 Cain was elected a Bishop in the A.M.E. Church. Soon afterwards he moved to Texas and became one of the founders of Paul Quinn College in Austin.

John Lynch (R-MS) 1873-1877 & 1882-1883
John Roy Lynch was born in Concordia Parish, Louisiana on September 10, 1847 to Patrick Lynch, an Irish immigrant and Catherine White, a slave. Lynch’s father died soon after his birth. Lynch and his mother were then traded to a plantation in Natchez, Mississippi. During the Civil War, Lynch became free when he fled the plantation and to serve as a cook for the 49th Illinois Volunteer Regiment.

During Reconstruction, Lynch joined the Republican Party in Mississippi. After working as assistant secretary for the Republican State Convention, Lynch became the Justice of the Peace in Natchez County, Mississippi. In November 1869 at the age of 22, Lynch was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives. Three years later, in 1872 he was named Speaker of the House.

Later in 1872, Lynch ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. He was elected, winning more than fifty percent of the popular vote. In Congress Lynch was known primarily for his support of a civil rights measure that eventually became the Civil Rights Act of 1875. During his congressional campaign in 1874, Lynch voiced concern for racist white Democrats attacks on black Republicans in Mississippi, a prelude to the bloody Mississippi gubernatorial campaign of 1875 where hundreds of black and white Republicans were killed. Despite those violent tactics which reduced the Republican vote in the state, Lynch managed to be re-elected to Congress in 1874 and 1876. During his third term, however, he was increasingly isolated from the state’s other political leaders, virtually all of whom were white Democrats. Despite intense opposition from Democrats, Lynch was reelected in 1880. Because the Democrats disputed the election, he fought for over a year (half his term) before Congress finally seated him. During his remaining year in Congress, he continued to support civil rights legislation.

Alonzo Ransier (R-SC) 1873-1875
Alonzo Jacob Ransier was born a free black man in Charleston in 1834. Little is known of his childhood and early education. At the end of the Civil War he worked as a shipping clerk. In 1865, at the age of 31, he was appointed state registrar of elections. The following year, 1866, Ransier attended South Carolina’s first Republican convention and two years later was elected to the Constitutional Convention which established the state’s first racially integrated government. Ransier served in that government when he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1868. In 1870 Ransier was elected Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina. 6 His position afforded him an opportunity to preside over the state senate as well as the Southern States Convention in Columbia in 1871 Ransier’s tenure in South Carolina’s executive government was remarkable for his honesty in a notoriously corrupt administration.7 Ransier was a delegate at the 1872 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. That same year he was elected to the Forty-Third United States Congress from the 2nd Congressional District.

Ransier was actively committed to the cause of equality for the African American citizens of South Carolina and the nation. While in Congress he fought for a civil rights bill, supported strong tariff laws, opposed arbitrary salary increases for federal officials, advocated term limits for politicians and petitioned for funds to improve the maintenance of Charleston harbor.

James Rapier (R-AL) 1873-1875

James Thomas Rapier was born on November 13, 1837 in Florence, Alabama and attended high school in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1856 at the age of 19 he traveled to attend the King School in Buxton, Ontario, Canada, an experimental black community. There, along with his education, he experienced a religious conversion and decided to devote his life to helping southern blacks. Rapier also attended the University of Glasgow and Franklin College in Nashville before receiving a teaching certificate in 1863.

Rapier moved to Maury County, Tennessee and in 1865 started campaigning for African American suffrage. He delivered the keynote address at the Tennessee Negro Suffrage Convention in Nashville that same year. When the movement saw no success he took up cotton farming in his home town of Florence, Alabama and became successful.

After the U.S. Congress passed the Reconstruction Acts in 1867, Rapier was elected a delegate to the first Republican state convention in Montgomery, Alabama and helped draft the Party’s platform. Rapier adopted a moderate political stance, which earned him respect from many Republicans. To some white southern Democrats, however, his engagement in politics at all was considered unacceptable. In 1868 Rapier was driven from his home by the Ku Klux Klan and remained in seclusion for almost a year.

In 1872 Rapier became the Republican Party nominee for Congress from northern Alabama, and after an intense campaign, won a huge victory. While in Congress he pushed through a bill to make Montgomery a port of delivery (which turned out to be an enormous boost for the city’s economy), and supported civil rights, education, and anti-violence legislation as well as the 1875 Civil Rights Law.

Democrats, however, regained control of the state and Rapier was defeated in his 1874 reelection bid. He ran again in 1876 but lost. Rapier remained active in politics after Reconstruction. He eventually became disenchanted with the treatment of African Americans in the region. By 1879 Rapier was one of the leaders of the Negro emigration movement that encouraged African Americans to leave the South. He purchased land in Kansas for black settlement and lectured extensively on the advantages of black settlement in the West.

Jeremiah Haralson (R-AL) 1875-1877
Jeremiah Haralson was born near Columbus, Georgia on April 1, 1846. The slave of Georgia planter John Haralson, he was taken to Alabama where he remained in bondage until 1865. Haralson taught himself to read and write and later became a skilled orator and debater.

Haralson won a seat in Alabama’s House of Representatives and in 1872 was elected to the State Senate. In 1874 Haralson again ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. Haralson narrowly won the Republican primary over Liberal Republican Frederick G. Bromberg. Soon after the primary Bromberg accused Haralson of voter fraud and sought to deny him his seat. The Democrats who controlled the U.S. House of Representatives supported Haralson and on March 4, 1875 he took his seat in Congress.

Congressman Jeremiah Haralson supported the policies of President Ulysses Grant and urged black voters to remain loyal to the Republican Party. Appointed to the House Committee on Public expenditures, he introduced legislation to use proceeds from public land sales for educational purposes and for the relief of the Medical College of Alabama. Haralson broke with other Republican-era black Congressmen by criticizing the use of federal soldiers to control violence and ensure orderly voting in the South. He also favored general amnesty for former Confederates.

John Adams Hyman (R-NC) 1875-1877
John Adams Hyman was born into slavery on July 23, 1840 in Warren County, North Carolina. Hyman’s thirst for knowledge resulted in him being sold away from his family for attempting to read a spelling book that was given to him by a sympathetic white jeweler. He continued to seek knowledge at his new residence in Alabama and was sold again for fear that he would influence other slaves. Hyman was sold eight more times for his attempts to educate himself.

At the age of 25 Hyman was freed and returned to his family in North Carolina. He quickly enrolled in school where he received an elementary education. Hyman also became a landowner and merchant. Hyman, a Mason, soon emerged as a leader of the post-Civil War North Carolina black community.

Following the 1868 Constitutional Convention Hyman was elected to the North Carolina State Senate from Warren County. He served in the State Senate until 1874. In 1872, Hyman was unsuccessful in a bid to become North Carolina’s first black congressman when he campaigned in the state’s heavily African American Second Congressional District. He ran again in 1874, winning against a white Democrat. Hyman was the only Republican elected to Congress from North Carolina that year. The election was contested, however, and Hyman’s term ended before he was officially seated.

While in Congress, Hyman proposed federal funding for Civil War-related damages in his district. He also called for the reimbursement of the freedmen and women who had lost money in the Federally Chartered Freedman’s Bank. However, because his seat was challenged his entire term, Hyman was unable to fully make his presence felt in Congress.

Charles Nash (R-LA) 1875-1877
Republican Charles Edmund Nash was born in Opelousas, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, on May 23, 1844. Before his time in Congress ,Nash attended common schools, was a bricklayer in New Orleans, and had enlisted as a private for the U.S. volunteers in July of 1863. He was later promoted to Sergeant Major, but his military service proved to be disastrous as he lost the lower third of his right leg just before the Civil War’s end.

As a result of his military service and strong support of the Republican Party, he was appointed to the position of night inspector in the New Orleans Customs House – a powerful post in the local political machine. In 1874 he was elected, uncontested, to the House of Representatives from the 6th Congressional District.

Despite his easy election, Nash made little political impact during his time in Congress. He was assigned to the Committee on Education and Labor. On June 7th, 1876 Nash made the only major address during his term as Congressman. His speech condemned the violent and anti- democratic actions of some Southern Democrats, called for greater education among the populace, and also for increased racial and political peace especially in the South.

Robert Smalls (R-SC) 1875-79, 1882-83, 1884-87
Robert Smalls was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, on April 5, 1839 and worked as a house slave until the age of 12. At that point his owner, John K. McKee, sent him to Charleston to work as a waiter, ship rigger, and sailor, with all earnings going to McKee. This arrangement continued until Smalls was 18 when he negotiated to keep all but $15 of his monthly pay, a deal which allowed Smalls to begin saving money. The savings that he accumulated were later used to purchase his wife and daughter from their owner for a sum of $800. Their son was born a few years later.

In addition to his claim to fame as a Congressman, Robert Smalls is well-known for stealing a Confederate ship, the Planter, on which he worked as a deckhand during the war. On May 13, 1862, the crew of the Planter went ashore for the evening, leaving Smalls to guard the ship and its contents. Smalls loaded the ship with his wife, children and 12 other slaves from the city and sailed it to the area of the harbor where Union ships had formed their blockade. This trip led the ship past five forts, all of which required the correct whistle signal to indicate they were a Confederate ship. Smalls eventually presented the Planter before Onward, a Union blockade ship and raised the white flag of surrender. He later turned over all charts, a Confederate naval code book, and armaments, as well as the Planter itself, over to the Union Navy.

Smalls’s feat is partly credited with persuading a reluctant President Abraham Lincoln to now consider allowing African Americans into the Union Army. Smalls went on a speaking tour across the North to describe the episode and to recruit black soldiers for the war effort. By late 1863 he returned to the war zone to pilot the Planter, now a Union war vessel. In December 1863 he was promoted to Captain of the vessel, becoming the first African American to hold that rank in the history of the United States Navy.

At the war’s conclusion, Smalls received a commission as brigadier general of the South Carolina militia. He then purchased his former owner’s house in Beaufort, but he was generous to the economically devastated McKees.11 Having received a rudimentary education from private tutors in Philadelphia during the war, Smalls continued his studies after settling in Beaufort.
After the Civil War Smalls entered politics as a Republican. Smalls’s impressive résumé and his ability to speak the Sea Island Gullah dialect enhanced his local popularity and opened doors in South Carolina politics. He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives and later to the South Carolina Senate. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives first from South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District and later from South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District. Smalls served in Congress between 1868 and 1889.

South Carolina “Red Shirts”—a local branch of the Ku Klux Klan—regularly threatened Smalls and his supporters during often chaotic and violent campaigns. Smalls described his 1876 election as “a carnival of bloodshed and violence.” Smalls’s congressional career focused on promoting African-American civil rights. “My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be equal of any people anywhere,” Smalls asserted in 1895. “All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”

By 1882, South Carolina Democrats had gerry–mandered the state so that only one district retained any hope of electing a black candidate. The new district’s lines demonstrated the legislature’s intent; completely ignoring county lines, the district contained one–quarter of the state’s substantial black population (82 percent of the district’s population was black).31 However, Smalls continued to win elections and served for 3 more terms.

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BHM 2018 #7: Four Black Governors and Eighteen Black Lieutenant Governors

If we skip the three black governors of the Virgin Islands, and only 3, even though they became a US Territory in 1916, at any rate…. Four governors. In over 200 years, in 50 states. It actually mirrors what we see in the Senate. 10 Senators, 4 Governors.

I have found a few articles that talk about this phenomenon, and I will share excerpts here, then give some details into the lives and legacies of our 4 black governors.

Then I’m also going to present some information about the black Lt. Governors that we’ve had. There have been 18 of them, including 4 right now. THREE of them became governor, two due to resignation and Wilder won in popular election. So perhaps they deserve a closer look. If we can have 3 African-Americans in the Senate at one time, perhaps we can have a few more governors.

The Powers of a Governor
States are the primary subdivisions of the United States, and possess a number of powers and rights under the United States Constitution, such as regulating intrastate commerce, running elections, creating local governments, and ratifying constitutional amendments. Each state has its own constitution, grounded in republican principles, and government, consisting of three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. Also, due to the shared sovereignty between each state and the federal government, Americans are citizens of both the federal republic and of the state in which they reside.

The governor heads the government’s executive branch in each state or territory and, depending on the individual jurisdiction, may have considerable control over government budgeting, the power of appointment of many officials (including department and agency heads and many judges- in most cases from a list of names submitted by a nominations committee), and a considerable role in legislation. The governor may also have additional roles, such as that of commander-in-chief of the state’s National Guard (when not federalized) and of that state’s respective defense force (which is not subject to federalization). In many states and territories the governor also has partial or absolute power to commute or pardon a criminal sentence. As state leaders, governors advance and pursue new and revised policies and programs using a variety of tools, among them executive orders, executive budgets, and legislative proposals and vetoes. Not only can governors veto state bills, but in all but seven states they have the power of the line-item veto on appropriations bills (a power the President does not have). In some cases legislatures can override a gubernatorial veto by a two-thirds vote, in others by three-fifths.

In all states, the governor is directly elected and serve four-year terms except those in New Hampshire and Vermont, who serve two-year terms.

There have been a total of four black governors. Two who were lieutenant governors and two elected governors.
• P. B. S. Pinchback held the office in Louisiana for 34 days in 1872, stepping in when the incumbent governor faced impeachment.
• Governor Douglas Wilder was the first African-American elected to the office. He served as governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1994 .In Virginia, governors are only allowed one term.
• Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts was the second African-American elected to the office. He served as governor of Massachusetts from 1 2007 to 2015.
• Governor David Paterson of New York took office in 2008 after Eliot Spitzer’s resignation. Paterson served for three years, the remainder of Spitzer’s term.

Obstacles to Becoming Governor

So why aren’t there more governors? Here are two reasons.

• “‘Representing a primarily black constituency sets you on a political path that makes it hard to recalibrate for a statewide race,’ It’s a challenge for Black gubernatorial candidates playing the balancing act between Black voter expectations and needs, and building a multi-cultural coalition”. There is a traditional need for black candidates to establish an identity in liberal, majority-black districts while courting a white, less-liberal base by incorporating conservative tendencies or associations. However, if they gain traction wit this larger audience and seek statewide or higher office, they commonly have to distance themselves from their Black-liberal foundation to forge a successful political identity that “transcends race.”

• ‘As long as minority congressional members represent districts that tend to be lower income, then your funding base is going to be smaller, which will put you at a dollar disadvantage when you want to run for statewide office. Also, the Democratic party commonly throws less of a party for its African-American statewide office seekers. “State Democratic parties don’t seem all that inclined to either groom, support or encourage Black Statewide nominees, even in states with large concentrations of Black voters, and a high coalition-building potential that would make a black gubernatorial candidate much more competitive.

The Four Governors

P.B.S. Pinchback (R-LA) was born 5/10/1837, as a free man, in Macon Georgia, to a white planter who raised Pinchback as his son. After his death, Pinchback and his mother fled to Ohio. During the Civil War, Pinchback went to Louisiana, in Union-occupied New Orleans, to raise troops. In 1868, he served in the State Senate, became President pro tempore; at the time Louisiana’s state senate included 42 representatives of African-American descent (half of the House, and seven of 36 seats in the Senate). then acting lieutenant governor upon the death of Oscar Dunn, the first elected African-American lieutenant governor of a US state. When the governor was impeached Pinchback served as governor. He also won the US Senate seat in 1872 but wasn’t seated. Overall, the mid- to late 1870s marked an acceleration of the reversal of the political gains which African Americans in Louisiana had achieved since the end of the Civil War. In 1877, Democrats fully regained control of the state legislature after the withdrawal of federal troops, as a result of a national Democratic compromise marking the end of Reconstruction. Republican blacks continued to be elected to state and local offices, but elections were accompanied by violence and fraud. Most blacks were totally disfranchised by a new state constitution in 1898 and were effectively excluded from politics for decades.

Douglas Wilder (D-VA) was born in 1/17/1931 in Richmond, VA, the grandson of slaves. He graduated from Virginia Union University, served in the Army during the Korean war, then earned a law degree from Howard University and practiced Law. He was elected to the Virginia Senate from 1969-1986, won the Lieutenant governor’s race, serving from 1986-1990. Wilder was the first African American to win a statewide election in Virginia. Aware that he needed to reach the swath of the state’s majority-white electorate, Wilder had undertaken a two-month “back roads” campaign tour of the state, visiting Virginia’s predominantly rural central and western regions and enhancing his name recognition across the state., then ran and won the governorship in 1990, winning by a spread of less than half a percent. The narrow victory margin prompted a recount, which reaffirmed Wilder’s election. Some observers believed the close election was caused by the Bradley effect, and suggested that white voters were reluctant to tell pollsters that they did not intend to vote for Wilder.

During his tenure as governor, Wilder worked on crime and gun control initiatives. He also worked to fund Virginia’s transportation initiatives, effectively lobbying Congress to reallocate highway money to the states with the greatest needs.[11] Much residential and office development had taken place in Northern Virginia without its receiving sufficient federal money for infrastructure improvements to keep up. He also succeeded in passing state bond issues to support improving transportation. In May 1990 Wilder ordered state agencies and universities to divest themselves of any investments in South Africa because of its policy of apartheid, making Virginia the first Southern state to take such action.

During his term, Wilder carried out Virginia’s law on capital punishment, although he had stated his personal opposition to the death penalty. There were 14 executions by the electric chair, including the controversial case of Roger Keith Coleman. In January 1994 Wilder commuted the sentence of Earl Washington, Jr, an intellectually disabled man, to life in prison based on testing of DNA evidence that raised questions about his guilt. Virginia law has strict time limits on when such new evidence can be introduced post-conviction. But in 2000, under a new governor, an STR-based DNA test led to the exclusion of Washington as the perpetrator of the murder for which he had been sentenced. He was fully exonerated by Governor Jim Gilmore for the capital murder and he was released from prison. As Virginia only allows one term, Wilder moved on from the governorship as mayor of Richmond, then retired from politics. He briefly made news for not supporting Obama in the 2012 election, stating his term had been a disappointment.


Deval Patrick (D-MA), the third black governor, was born in 7/31/1956 on the South Side of Chicago. He attended Harvard and Harvard Law School. After graduating, he practiced law with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and later joined a Boston law firm, where he was named a partner, at age 34. In 1994, Bill Clinton appointed him as the United States assistant attorney general for the civil rights division of the United States Department of Justice, Deval became governor in 2007 and served for 8 years. During his governorship, Patrick oversaw the implementation of the state’s 2006 health care reform program which had been enacted under Mitt Romney; increased funding to education and life sciences; won a federal Race to the Top education grant; passed an overhaul of governance of the state transportation function, signing a law to create the Massachusetts Department of Transportation; increased the state sales tax from 5% to 6.25%; and raised the state’s minimum wage from $8 per hour to $11 per hour by 2017. In 2010, Patrick pushed for legislation to limit the purchase of firearms, citing a series of gun violence incidents and violent crime in Boston Drug addiction: In September 2014, Patrick signed a law requiring health insurers to extend coverage to people struggling with drug addiction by covering up to two weeks of inpatient treatment Under Patrick, Massachusetts joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the planned introduction of casinos in Massachusetts. He argued that these casinos would generate over $2 billion for the state economy. He also touted that the casinos would create 30,000 construction jobs and 20,000 permanent jobs.[38][39]

Patrick proposed that the revenue generated would be spent to beef up local law enforcement, create a state gambling regulatory agency, repair roads and bridges, gambling addiction treatment and the remainder would go towards property tax relief.[

David Paterson (D-NY), born 5.20.1954, was born in Brooklyn, NY. At the age of three months, Paterson contracted an ear infection that spread to his optic nerve, leaving him sightless in his left eye and severely limited vision in his right. Paterson received a B.A. degree in history from Columbia College of Columbia University in 1977 and a J.D. degree from Hofstra Law School in 1983. However, he was unable to pass the bar due to his limited vision and lack of accommodation from the New York bar.

Paterson campaigned for David Dinkins, then won a seat in the State Senate. He served between 1985 – 2006. Paterson was elected by the Democratic caucus of the Senate as Minority Leader on November 20, 2002, becoming both the first non-white state legislative leader and the highest-ranking black elected official in the history of New York State, He was elected lieutenant governor in 2006. Paterson was a very active lieutenant governor. During his time as lieutenant governor, Paterson also served as an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs. When Spitzer resigned in the wake of a prostitution scandal, Paterson was sworn in as governor of New York on March 17, 2008.

Paterson ascended to the governor’s office during the busiest legislative period of the year. The state is required by law to pass its budget prior to April 1. He had only two weeks to negotiate with lawmakers a proposal to close a $4.7 billion deficit and pass a $124 billion budget from the Spitzer administration. On Tuesday, July 29, 2008, Paterson gave a rare televised address that was broadcast on all of New York’s major news networks, stating that the state budget deficit had gone up $1.4 billion over the 90 days since his original budget submission, citing rising costs due to the poor economy and a struggling Wall Street. He also warned that the budget deficit is estimated to grow 22 percent by 2011. With AIG on the verge of collapse on September 16, 2008, and in the aftermath of Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy, Paterson publicly lobbied for a government bailout of the insurance giant.

Although Paterson is a lifelong Democrat who was considered a liberal during his time in the state Senate, he earned praise from conservatives during his time as governor for his efforts to combat the 2008 New York fiscal crisis by major reductions in spending and the enaction of an inflation-indexed property tax cap, a school tax “circuit breaker,” and unfunded mandate relief, as well as his appointment of Blue Dog Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy created by Hillary Clinton’s appointment as United States Secretary of State.

Lieutenant Governors

A lieutenant governor in the United States is the highest officer of a state after the governor, and he/she stands in for the governor when he/ she is absent from the state or is incapacitated–dies, resigns or is removed from office. Many states have lieutenant governors with varying functions and methods of succession. With few exceptions, the lieutenant governor automatically becomes governor by law, appointment or as acting governor until the next or special election. There have been 18 Black lieutenant governors in the U.S.; some ascended to become governors and others were elected as lieutenant governors. During the 19th century, they were all Republicans and three of the five were from Louisiana. In the 20th century, there were four and were all Democrats. And thus far in the 21st century, there have been nine. Three of the have been from the state of Maryland.

The type of relationship between the governor and the lieutenant governor greatly varies by state. In some states the governor and lieutenant governor are completely independent of each other, while in others the governor gets to choose (prior to the election) who would be his or her lieutenant governor.

• Five states do not have a lieutenant governor. In those states, a different constitutional officer assumes the office of the governor should there be a vacancy in the office. Those states are Arizona (Sec. of State), Maine (Pres. of Senate), New Hampshire (Pres. of Senate), Oregon (Sec. of State), and Wyoming (Sec. of State).

• Eighteen states have separate elections for the governor and the lieutenant governor, which may lead to the governor and the lieutenant governor being from different parties. Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

• Two states have the State Senate appoint the lieutenant governor, which may mean that the governor and the lieutenant governor are from different parties. Those states are Tennessee and West Virginia.

• Eight states have the governor and lieutenant governor run together on the same ticket, but the governor does not get to choose his/her running mate. In those states, the winners of the governor primaries and the winners of the lieutenant governor primaries run together as joint tickets in the general election. The governor and lieutenant governor would therefore be from the same party, but may not necessarily be political allies. Those states are Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.

• Seventeen states have the governor and lieutenant governor run together on the same ticket similar to the President and Vice President of the United States. In those states, the governor gets to pick (prior to the elections) who would be the lieutenant governor. Those states are Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Utah.

The Eighteen Lieutenant Governors

1. Oscar Dunn of Louisiana in 1868-1871 – Louisiana has separate elections for governor and lieutenant governor – Dunn was elected in his own right.
2. Alonzo Ransier of South Carolina: 1870-1872 South Carolina has separate elections for governor and lieutenant governor – Ransier was elected in his own right.
3. Pinckney Pinchback of Louisiana: 1871-1872 Louisiana has separate elections for governor and lieutenant governor – Pinchback was elected in his own right.
4. Richard Gleaves of South Carolina: 1872-1876 South Carolina has separate elections for governor and lieutenant governor – Gleaves was elected in his own right.
5. Caesar Antoine of Louisiana: 1873-1877 Louisiana has separate elections for governor and lieutenant governor – Antoine was elected in his own right.

6. Mervyn Dymally of California: 1975-1979 California has separate elections for governor and lieutenant governor – Dymally was elected in his own right.
7. George Brown of Colorado: 1975-1979 Colorado has a joint ticket – the gubernatorial candidate picks his running mate.

8. Douglas Wilder of Virginia 1986-1990 Virginia has separate elections for governor and lieutenant governor – Wilder was elected in his own right.

9. Joe Rogers of Colorado: 1999-2003 Colorado has a joint ticket – the gubernatorial candidate picks his running mate.

10. Jennette Bradley of Ohio 2003-2005 Ohio has a joint ticket – the gubernatorial candidate picks his running mate.
11. Michael Steele of Maryland 2003-2007 Maryland has a joint ticket – the gubernatorial candidate picks his running mate.

12. David Paterson of New York 2007-2008 Paterson won his primary, and ended up on a joint ticket.

13. Anthony Brown of Maryland 2007-2015 Maryland has a joint ticket – the gubernatorial candidate picks his running mate.

14. Jennifer Carroll of Florida 2011-2013 Florida has a joint ticket – the gubernatorial candidate picks his running mate.

15. Boyd Rutherford of Maryland 2015-present Maryland has a joint ticket – the gubernatorial candidate picks his running mate.

16. Jenean Hampton of Kentucky 2015-present Kentucky has a joint ticket – the gubernatorial candidate picks his running mate.

17. Justin Fairfax of Virginia 2018 to present Virginia has separate elections for governor and lieutenant governor – Dunn was elected in his own right

18. Sheila Oliver of New Jersey 2018 to present New Jersey has a joint ticket – the gubernatorial candidate picks his running mate.

19th Century
Oscar J. Dunn was the first Black lieutenant governor in the U.S.; he was elected in the state of Louisiana and served from 1868 to 1871. Dunn was a self-educated man who rose from slavery and purchased his own freedom. He also served in Union Army for the First Louisiana Guard during the Civil War and rose to the rank of captain. He played a vital role in the post- Civil War era in Louisiana speaking at mass meetings where he would demand equality and suffrage for Blacks particularly in the state government. Dunn was one of the Blacks who attended the convention that drafted Louisiana’s constitution in 1868 and was elected lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket. He presided over the senate and developed a distaste for graft and corruption in office, which placed him in a strong position to become the next governor of the state. However in 1871, Dunn died suddenly and mysteriously after serving three years in office.

Though,Pinckney Benton Stewart “P.B.S” Pinchback is remembered as the nation’s first Black governor, upon Dunn’s death, Pinchback became acting lieutenant- governor of Louisiana. (Like Dunn, he too was a captain in the U.S. Army and after the war became active in the Republican Party, attended the 1868 convention and was elected state senator).

During the same period, Alonzo J. Ransier–born a free Black man–became a shipping clerk before being appointed the state registrar of elections in South Carolina in 1865. The following year, he attended the state’s first Republican convention which helped to establish its first racially integrated government. Ransier also held a series of political posts during the Reconstruction era including state representative before being elected lieutenant-governor in 1870. There he served for two years and was then elected a Republican Congressman. He served in Congress from 1873 to 1875 fighting tirelessly for civil rights.

Caesar Carpenter “C.C.” Antoine was born in New Orleans to a Black father and a West Indian mother. His grandmother was from Africa, the daughter of a captured African chief, who bought her own freedom and became an acute businesswoman. Her minor fortune allowed Antoine and his father to operate a successful grocery business and to live out their lives as free Blacks. During the Civil War, he joined the Union Army and quickly rose to the rank of Captain. At the end of the Civil War, Antoine moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, opened a family grocery store, bought land and became a farmer. He soon entered politics and held his first office as a delegate to Louisiana’s Constitutional Convention in 1868. Under the protection of federal troops, black voting rights were established and Antoine became a Republican state senator serving from 1868 to 1872. He then became lieutenant-governor in 1872–briefly acting as governor in 1876–until 1877. His tenure ended soon after the Compromise of 1877 which withdrew federal troops from Louisiana, allowing the Democrats to return to power. Though he remained active in party politics, he never again held public office. In 1921, Antoine died of natural causes at his home in Shreveport.

20th Century
In 1974, George L. Brown and Mervyn M. Dymally were the first two lieutenant-governors elected in 20th century in Colorado and California respectively. Brown was born in July 1926, in Lawrence, Kansas, on a farm and he was a star athlete in basketball, football and track before graduating from high school in 1944. During World War II, he served as a Tuskegee Airman. Though they were sworn in within an hour of each other in 1975, their beginnings were miles apart. Dymally was born in Cedros, Trinidad, an island/country in the then British West Indies.

They both started off with degrees in journalism. Brown also did graduate work at Harvard Business School, the University of Colorado and the University of Denver. He worked as a writer, was the first Black editor at The Denver Post and hosted his own radio talk show. Brown served as the assistant executive director for Denver’s Public Housing Program for four years and taught at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver. Brown started in politics in 1955 as a member of the Colorado House of Representatives and the state senate where he served a total of 18 years. Then in 1974, during his 5th term as a state senator, he was elected as lieutenant-governor, the first in the nation in the 20th century.

Dymally received his secondary education in Trinidad, did his undergraduate at Lincoln University, Jefferson City, Missouri and Los Angeles State College, his Master’s degree from California State University, Sacramento, and his doctorate from United States International University (now Alliant International University), San Diego. He entered politics as a California State Assemblyman in 1963 and as the first Black State Senator (1967-1975). In 1974, he was elected as California’s first Black lieutenant-governor. He also served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1981-1993) and after a 10-year retirement, returned to politics as a California State Assemblyman (2002-2008).

Brown and Dymally’s careers as lieutenant-governors seemed to have traveled parallel historical paths. In addition to the close proximity of them being elected and sworn in, they each served one torturous and embattled four-year term.

L. Douglas Wilder is well known as the first Black governor to ever be elected the governor of a U.S. state; he served as governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1994. Born January 17, 1931, he began his career in politics as a state senator in 1969 where he served until 1985 when he was narrowly elected as the state’s lieutenant-governor, the first African-American to be elected to a statewide office.

21st Century
In 2003 at the dawn of the 21st century, Jennette Bradley of Ohio and Michael S. Steele of Maryland became lieutenant-governors of their respective states. Bradley was not only was the first African American to serve in that capacity in her state, but she was also the first Black woman ever elected as lieutenant-governor in the history of the United States. Steele was the first African American to be elected in that capacity in his state. They were both Republicans.

Bradley earned a Bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and started her career as an executive at a banking company. She entered the political arena as a member of the city council of Columbus, Ohio, where she served for 11 years.

In 2002, Governor Bob Taft of Ohio placed Bradley on his gubernatorial ticket as lieutenant-governor since his previous lieutenant-governor decided to run for another officer. That move sparked protests from his own party on the grounds that Bradley was too liberal, having supported abortion and homosexual rights. However, the ticket prevailed. From 2003 to 2005, she and Steele were the two highest-ranking African American Republicans in the United States.

Born in 1958 at Andrews Air Force Base, Steele attended a Roman Catholic school in the Washington D.C. area eventually winning a scholarship to John Hopkins University. He later on earned a law degree at Georgetown University and worked as a corporate lawyer through much of his career before entering politics. Though he grew up in a Democratic household, he switched to the Republican Party as an adult. Steele worked on several political campaigns until he was chosen to attend the Republican National Conventions as an alternate delegate in 1996 and 2000. He also became the chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, the first African American to be so named.

In 2002, Steele was chosen as a running mate and nominee for Lieutenant Governor in the campaign against Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who was then the Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. He resigned his chairmanship of the Maryland Republican Party to campaign full-time and was described as bringing “little to the team but the color of his skin.”

The top statewide tickets in Ohio and Maryland won, and Bradley and Steele were elected lieutenant-governors of their respective states. Like Brown and Dymally in 1975, they were both sworn in, in 2003. Bradley was sworn in on January 13, 2003 and Steele, on January 15, 2003. She served from 2003 to 2005, resigning in 2005 to become Ohio State Treasurer. Afterwards, Bradley became involved with the Girl Scouts Council.

Steele served from 2003 to 2007. Since leaving office, he remained active in Republican politics. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate seat for Maryland and is currently serving as the first African American chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Anthony G. Brown, currently in the House of Representatives, was the lieutenant-governor of Maryland having succeeded Steele. A member of the Democratic Party, he was elected in 2006 and was sworn in the following January. Brown was born in New York and is the highest-ranking elected official in the nation to have served a tour of duty in Iraq. He is a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Army and a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.

He attended public school on Long Island, graduating from Huntington High School in 1979. After high school, Brown attended Harvard College, where he enrolled in the U.S. Army ROTC program at MIT. Brown spent five years in active duty with the U.S. Army before enrolling in Harvard Law School, where he was a year behind President Barack Obama.

Brown first entered politics when he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1998 representing Prince George’s County District 25. There he focused heavily on veterans-oriented issues and legislation. He ran on the gubernatorial ticket in 2007 and won defeating the incumbent(s). He was sworn in as the state’s 8th lieutenant-governor on January 17, 2008,

David A. Paterson was the governor of the state of New York. He ascended to that position in 2008 when the governor resigned and he was the lieutenant-governor. The son of a former N.Y. state senator, Paterson brought to both the governor’s and lieutenant-governor’s offices, a long record of effective leadership and public service making history among Black elected officials in the State of New York. He entered public service as a New York State Senator representing Harlem in 1985 becoming its Minority Leader and the first non-White legislative leader in New York’s history. In 2004, he became the first visually impaired person to address the Democratic National Convention and in 2006, he was elected New York’s first African-American lieutenant governor. As lieutenant-governor, he continued to champion the important legislative issues that he did as a state senator including stem cell research, alternative energy, reducing domestic violence and increasing the role minority and women-owned businesses play in New York State. When he was on the threshold of becoming the state’s first Black governor, he told a New York newspaper, “You never get to any level of leadership where your race is not a factor. You don’t want to be the first; you want to be the first of many.”

Jennifer Carroll of Florida served a lieutenant governor between 2011-2013. Carroll is the first black person to be elected to a statewide office in Florida since Reconstruction. Carroll was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. She moved to the United States at the age of eight. She enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1979. In 1981, she received an Associate of Arts degree from Leeward Community College. She followed this in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of New Mexico. She moved to Florida in 1986. She received a Master of Business Administration degree from unaccredited and now defunct Kensington University in 1995. She retired from the U.S. Navy in 1999 as a lieutenant commander. Carroll previously served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2003 until 2010. Although cleared later, Carroll came under scrutiny for public relations work for a charity that involved itself in gambling and for $24,000 in income she failed to report on financial disclosure forms and her federal taxes that was a bookkeeper’s oversight she fixed during the investigation. She resigned her post as lieutenant governor on March 12, 2013, at the request of Governor Rick Scott. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement subsequently concluded that she did not break any laws.

Boyd Rutherford of Maryland 2015-present . Rutherford was born in Washington, DC. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Howard University, which he earned in 1979. In 1990, Rutherford earned both a law degree and a master’s degree in communications management from the University of Southern California. Although Rutherford had never previously run for elective office, he has experience in both state and federal government. Rutherford was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as Associate Administrator in the U.S. General Services Administration, serving from 2001 to 2003. Rutherford then joined the administration of Governor Bob Ehrlich, serving as the Secretary of General Services from 2003 to 2006. He was again appointed by President Bush to serve as Assistant Secretary for Administration to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he served from 2006 to 2009. Rutherford is the third consecutive African American elected to the office of Lieutenant Governor in Maryland.[7][8] While Governor Larry Hogan was going through treatment for lymphoma, Rutherford often acted as governor.

Jenean Hampton of Kentucky 2015-present Hampton is the first African-American to hold any statewide office in Kentucky history, and only the third African-American woman to serve as lieutenant-governor of any U.S. state (after Jennette Bradley and Jennifer Carroll). Hampton was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. After Hampton graduated from high school, she worked for five years in the automotive industry in order to help pay for her college. She earned an Industrial Engineering degree from Wayne State University in 1985.[4] Soon after graduating from Wayne State University, Hampton joined the Air Force. She served for seven years as a computer systems officer, eventually attaining the rank of Captain. She was deployed to Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia. After serving in the Air Force, Hampton spent nineteen years working in the corrugated packaging industry. Hampton has been active in her local party and in the Tea Party Movement. Hampton was selected by Matt Bevin as his running mate for Governor of Kentucky. On November 3, 2015 Bevin and Hampton defeated the Democratic ticket of Attorney General Jack Conway and State Representative Sannie Overly in the 2015 Kentucky gubernatorial election.

Justin Fairfax of Virginia 2018 to present Virginia has separate elections for governor and lieutenant governor – Fairfax was elected in his own right. Fairfax moved with his family from Pittsburgh to northeast Washington, D.C. when he was five years old. Fairfax graduated from Duke University in 2000, with a degree in public policy. He served on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee for two years before attending Columbia Law School, where he was a member of the Columbia Law Review. Fairfax then served as law clerk to Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in 2005. He worked in the Washington office of the law firm WilmerHale before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia in 2010. Fairfax worked for two years as a federal prosecutor in Alexandria, Virginia. He served as deputy coordinator of the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force during this time.

Fairfax ran for public office for the first time in 2013, seeking the Democratic nomination for state attorney general. He lost to Mark Herring, but surprised party insiders with his strong performance in the primary. After the race, Fairfax co-chaired the 2014 re-election campaign of Virginia Senator Mark Warner. The following year, he was recruited to work at the law firm of Venable LLP, In 2017, Fairfax ran for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Fairfax won the Democratic nomination and defeated Republican nominee Jill Vogel, a state senator from Fauquier County in the general election. Fairfax is only the second African-American in Virginia history to be elected to statewide office . The lieutenant governor’s position is part-time;[6] Fairfax initially planned to continue his law practice while in office, but announced in December 2017 that he will be leaving his firm.

Sheila Oliver of New Jersey – 2018 to present. Oliver was born and grew up in Newark. She graduated cum laude with a B.A. from Lincoln University in 1974 in Sociology and was awarded an M.S. from Columbia University in Planning and Administration in 1976. She served on the Board of Education of the East Orange School District from 1994 to 2000. In 1997, she became the first woman to launch a competitive campaign for mayor in the City of East Orange, losing the election by a mere 51 votes. Oliver was one of the founders of the Newark Coalition for Low Income Housing, an organization that successfully sued the Newark Housing Authority and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in federal court to block the demolition of all publicly subsidized low income housing in Newark, as there was no plan in place for the construction of replacement housing for low-income Newark residents. in 2003, Oliver was chosen to be the party-backed candidates in the June 2003 primary election for General Assembly from the 34th District. Until she ran for lieutenant governor, she had been re-elected six times to two-year terms in every cycle after her initial election in 2003. On November 23, 2009, Oliver was elected unanimously by Assembly Democrats to become the 169th Speaker of the Assembly. In July 2017, Phil Murphy chose Oliver as his running mate on the Democratic ticket for the governor’s race. After winning the election Murphy announced he would appoint Oliver to serve as Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, a cabinet appointment, made under a provision of the New Jersey Constitution that allows the governor to appoint his lieutenant governor to a cabinet post without requiring the approval of the New Jersey Senate.

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BHM 2018 #6: The Ten Black Senators

Since not everyone who gets this mailing understands the Senate well, I am beginning with a few details about it. If you are already familiar with what the Senate does, you can skip that part. I then found an article written in 2009 about “There are No Black Senators” and some reasons why. I thought that was worth sharing.
Then, there are the Senators themselves. I did some digging to find out their positions, what they worked on, and the impact they had, or are having. And which ones might run for president. Out of the ten black senators, 7 are still living, and one has become president. Maybe another. We shall see.

About the Senate

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—composes the legislature of the United States. The Senate is composed of senators, each of whom represents a single state in its entirety, with each state being equally represented by two senators, regardless of its population. From 1789 until 1913, Senators were appointed by legislatures of the states they represented; following the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, they are now popularly elected.

As the upper house, the Senate has several powers of advice and consent which are unique to it; these include the ratification of treaties and the confirmation of Cabinet secretaries, Supreme Court justices, federal judges, other federal executive officials, flag officers, regulatory officials, ambassadors, and other federal uniformed officers. It further has the responsibility of conducting trials of those impeached by the House. Because of the desire to have two Houses that could act as an internal check on each other, the House of Representatives was intended to be a “People’s House” directly elected by the people, and with short terms obliging the representatives to remain close to their constituents. The Senate was intended to represent the states to such extent as they retained their sovereignty except for the powers expressly delegated to the national government. The Senate was thus not designed to serve the people of the United States equally.

The disparity between the most and least populous states has grown since the Connecticut Compromise, which granted each state two members of the Senate and at least one member of the House of Representatives, for a total minimum of three presidential Electors, regardless of population. In 1787, Virginia had roughly ten times the population of Rhode Island, whereas today California has roughly 70 times the population of Wyoming, based on the 1790 and 2000 censuses. This means some citizens are effectively two orders of magnitude better represented in the Senate than those in other states.

Before the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, Senators were elected by the individual state legislatures. Problems with repeated vacant seats due to the inability of a legislature to elect senators, intrastate political struggles, and even bribery and intimidation had gradually led to a growing movement to amend the Constitution to allow for the direct election of senators.

The Senate uses committees (and their subcommittees) for a variety of purposes, including the review of bills and the oversight of the executive branch. Formally, the whole Senate appoints committee members. In practice, however, the choice of members is made by the political parties. Generally, each party honors the preferences of individual senators, giving priority based on seniority. Each party is allocated seats on committees in proportion to its overall strength.

Most committee work is performed by 16 standing committees, each of which has jurisdiction over a field such as finance or foreign relations. Each standing committee may consider, amend, and report bills that fall under its jurisdiction. Furthermore, each standing committee considers presidential nominations to offices related to its jurisdiction. (For instance, the Judiciary Committee considers nominees for judgeships, and the Foreign Relations Committee considers nominees for positions in the Department of State.) Committees may block nominees and impede bills from reaching the floor of the Senate. Standing committees also oversee the departments and agencies of the executive branch. In discharging their duties, standing committees have the power to hold hearings and to subpoena witnesses and evidence.

The current standing committees of the Senate are:
1. Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry;
2. Appropriations;
3. Armed Services;
4. Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs;
5. Budget
6. Commerce, Science, and Transportation
7. Energy and Natural Resources;
8. Environment and Public Works;
9. Finance;
10. Foreign Relations;
11. Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
12. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
13. Judiciary
14. Rules and Administration
15. Small Business and Entrepreneurship
16. Veterans Affairs

The Senate also has several committees that are not considered standing committees. Such bodies are generally known as select or special committees; examples include the Select Committee on Ethics and the Special Committee on Aging. Legislation is referred to some of these committees, although the bulk of legislative work is performed by the standing committees. Committees may be established on an ad hoc basis for specific purposes; for instance, the Senate Watergate Committee was a special committee created to investigate the Watergate scandal. Such temporary committees cease to exist after fulfilling their tasks.

African American Senators

To date, ten African Americans have served in the United States Senate. Of the ten senators, six were popularly elected (including one that previously had been appointed by his state’s governor), two were elected by the state legislature prior to the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1913 (which provides for the direct election of U.S. Senators by the people of each state), and two were appointed by a state Governor.

The first two African-American senators represented the state of Mississippi during the Reconstruction Era, following the American Civil War. In 1870, Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the first African American senator. Five years later, Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi took the oath of office. It would be nearly another century, 1967, before Edward Brooke of Massachusetts followed in their historic footsteps. Carol Moseley Braun representing Illinois broke new ground in 1993, becoming the first African American female to serve as U.S. senator, and the second black senator to be popularly elected. In 2005, Barack Obama of Illinois became the fifth African American to serve and third to be popularly elected. Upon Obama’s resignation to become the nation’s first African American president, Roland Burris was appointed to fill the vacancy, becoming the sixth African American senator and the third to occupy the same Illinois Senate seat. Tim Scott of South Carolina was appointed to fill a vacancy in 2013, becoming the first African American since Reconstruction to represent a Southern state in the Senate. He won a special election in 2014 to complete the term and was elected to a full term in 2016. The appointment of Massachusetts senator William “Mo” Cowan to replace John Kerry on February 1, 2013, marked the first time that two African Americans have served simultaneously in the United States Senate. Cowan was not re-elected. Cory Booker of New Jersey became the ninth African American senator when he won a special election to replace Senator Frank Lautenberg on October 31, 2013. Booker won election to a full term in 2014. Kamala Harris became California’s first African American senator on January 3, 2017, bringing the number of African Americans serving simultaneously to three and the total number of African American senators to ten.

We are Under-represented for a Reason.

To understand why we have had so few black Senators can be approached by looking at the House of Representatives – the “People’s House”. The percentage chance that the Representative in a given Congressional District is black given the African-American population in that district, can be represented by a logistic regression. The chances of having a black Representative are virtually nil until the African-American share of the population hits 25 percent, at which time it begins to accelerate rapidly until the black population hits 60 percent, after which point having a black congressman is virtually certain.

Of course, the states are effectively big Congressional Districts for purposes of electing senators and governors. In fact, while there are a decent number of Congressional Districts that have African-American populations of 25 percent or more, only six states do, and five of the six are culturally conservative areas in the Deep South.. Suppose you added up the probabilities of each state electing a black congressman, and then multiplied it by two since each state gets to elect two senators. How many black senators would you expect? You’d expect there to be about one — or more precisely, 1.2.

Black candidates for the House of Representatives have not had to develop a message that appeals to white voters, because most of them don’t have very many white voters in their districts (about half the nation’s African-American population is limited to the 60 blackest Congressional Districts). Nor do they have very many conservative voters in their districts, and so they have not had to develop a message that appeals to conservatives, even though the black population itself is far more diverse in its political views than is generally acknowledged.

Because they are not very representative of their states as a whole, moreover, these districts are also not likely to be very good launching pads for ascension to the Senate or to the governor’s mansion.

Here they are – In Detail.

Hiram Revels (R-MS) became the first African American senator in 1870. Born in North Carolina in 1827, Revels attended Knox College in Illinois and later served as minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland. He raised two black regiments during the Civil War and fought at the battle of Vicksburg in Mississippi. The Mississippi state legislature sent him to the U.S. Senate during Reconstruction where he became an outspoken opponent of racial segregation. Revels served on the Committees of Education and Labor as well as the Committee on the District of Columbia. Much of the Senate’s attention focused on Reconstruction issues. While Radical Republicans called for continued punishment of ex-Confederates, Revels argued for amnesty and a restoration of full citizenship, provided they swore an oath of loyalty to the United States. Revels supported bills to invest in developing infrastructure in Mississippi: to grant lands and right of way to aid the construction of the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad and levees on the Mississippi river. He argued for integration of schools in the District of Columbia.[4] He also nominated a black youth to West Point, successfully championed the cause of black workers who had been barred by their color from working at the Washington Navy Yard.. Revels served in the Senate for just a year, he broke new ground for African Americans in Congress.

Born into slavery in 1841, Blanche K. Bruce (R-MS) spent his childhood years in Virginia where he received his earliest education from the tutor hired to teach his master’s son. At the dawn of the Civil War, Bruce escaped slavery and traveled north to begin a distinguished career in education and politics. Elected to the Senate in 1874 by the Mississippi state legislature, he served a full term from 1875 to 1881. When the Democrats gained control of the state in the same year he was elected, Bruce became increasingly isolated politically. Through the remainder of his term he supported freedman’s issues against the backdrop of Democratic rule of Mississippi. Bruce argued for levee systems and railroad construction, advocated political reform in federal elections, and spoke out for civil rights for blacks, Native Americans, and Chinese who were becoming a major labor force in the Delta region of the state. After his Senate term ended Bruce was appointed to three posts by Republican Presidents. President James Garfield named him Register of the Treasury, a post he held until 1885, making Bruce the first black man to have his signature on US currency.
The first African American elected to the Senate by popular vote, Edward Brooke (R-MA) served two full terms, from 1967 to 1979. Born in Washington, D.C., in 1919, Brooke graduated from Howard University before serving in the United States Army during World War II. After the war, he received his juris doctor degree from Boston University .Before becoming a Senator, Brooke was the Massachusetts Attorney General (the first black Attorney General in any state) and held other key posts which enabled him to beat a former state governor for his position in the Senate. Brooke, an African American, Protestant Republican, won elective office in the overwhelmingly white, Catholic, Democratic state of Massachusetts, The black vote had, Time wrote, “no measurable bearing” on the election as less than 3% of the state’s population was black, and Peabody also supported civil rights for blacks. In the Senate, Brooke aligned with the liberal faction of Republicans. He co-wrote the 1968 Fair Housing Act which prohibits housing discrimination. During his Senate career he championed the causes of increased minimum wage and promoted commuter rail and mass transit systems. He also worked tirelessly to promote racial equality in the South. In 1969, Brooke broke ranks with President Richard Nixon, a fellow Republican, because he believed the President’s Supreme Court nominee Clement Haynsworth was a segregationist. Brooke led a bipartisan coalition that defeated Haynsworth’s nomination. A few months later he again organized sufficient Republican support to defeat Nixon’s second Supreme Court nominee, Harold Carswell, who had also voiced support for racial segregation. ‘Brooke opposed repeated Administration attempts to close down the Job Corps and the Office of Economic Opportunity and to weaken the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—all foundational elements of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. On November 4, 1973, Brooke became the first Republican to call on President Nixon to resign because of the Watergate Scandal. He had risen to become the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee and on two powerful Appropriations subcommittees, Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Foreign Operations. From these positions, Brooke defended and strengthened the programs he supported; for example, he was a leader in enactment of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which ensured married women the right to establish credit in their own name. When Brooke supported abortion, he lost the support of the Massachusetts Catholic base; additionally, his divorce was ugly – Brooke made false statements about his finances. It is thought that this negative publicity cost him his third term.

Some called 1992 the “Year of the Woman.” More women than ever before were elected to political office in November of that year, and five of them came to the U.S. Senate. Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL) not only joined that class on January 3, 1993, but also became the first African American woman ever to serve as U.S. Senator. Moseley Braun was first elected to public office in 1978, as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives. There, she rose to the post of assistant majority leader. As a State Representative, she became recognized as a champion for liberal social causes. In 1991, angered by incumbent Democratic senator Alan Dixon’s vote to confirm Clarence Thomas, Moseley Braun challenged him in the primary election. During her Senate career, Moseley Braun sponsored progressive education bills and campaigned for gun control. She served on several committees, including the powerful Senate Finance Committee – the first woman to ever do so. Despite her reputation as a liberal Democrat, Moseley Braun possessed something of a centrist record on economic issues. She voted for the 1993 budget package and against the welfare reform laws passed in 1996, but on many other matters she was more conservative. Moseley Braun voted in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and lawsuit reform measures like the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (she was also among the minority of Democrats to support the even more controversial Common Sense Product Liability and Legal Reform Act of 1995). She also voted contrary to the interests of the more populist wing of the party by voting for the Freedom to Farm Act and the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Like her Illinois colleague, fellow Democrat Paul Simon, she voted in favor of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution and also to place a nuclear spent fuel storage facility in Nevada, a move strongly opposed by many Democrats, especially former Majority Leader Harry Reid.

On social issues however, she was significantly more liberal than many of her fellow senators. She was strongly pro-choice, voting against the ban on partial-birth abortions and the restrictions on funding in military bases for abortions. She also voted against the death penalty and in favor of gun control measures. Moseley Braun was one of only sixteen senators to vote against the Communications Decency Act and one of only fourteen to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act. She delivered a eulogy to Thurgood Marshall on January 26, 1993.

Moseley Braun left the Senate in January of 1999 and soon after became the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand, a position she held until 2001. Moseley Braun ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004.


Barack Obama (D-IL) was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. He received his earliest education in Hawaii and Indonesia, and then graduated from Columbia University in 1983. He moved to Chicago in 1985 to work for a church-based group seeking to improve living conditions in poor neighborhoods. In 1991, Obama graduated from Harvard Law School where he was the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. He served in the Illinois state senate from 1997 to 2004. Obama won his election to the Senate in what could be described as a fluke. The Republican nominee withdrew 3 months before the election and a Marylander, Alan Keyes, established residency in Illinois to run in his place. Obama won by a landslide, becoming the fifth African American to serve in the Senate on January 3, 2005. Obama actually only served 3 years in the Senate. He served on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Committee on Veterans Affairs, the Committee on Environment and Public Works, and the Committee on Foreign Relations. In his first session (109th Congress), he was involved in immigration reform including border security. Legislation bearing his name was passed for armament reduction and federal transparency as well as relief aid. In the first year of the 110th Congress, he worked on lobbying and campaign finance reform, election reform, climate control and troop reduction. In the second year, he legislated for oversight of certain military discharges, Iran divestment and nuclear terrorism reduction. He successfully sponsored a Mercury Export Ban, and a Congo Relief , Security and Democracy Promotion Act. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Obama made official trips to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, specifically Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Chad.

Obama was characterized as having one of the worst voting attendance records in the Senate, especially during campaigning. Most of the votes Obama missed were for amendments to spending bills, when his vote would not have decided the outcome. Additionally, 123 times, Obama did not actually vote on an issue, but instead voted “present” instead of yea or nay. He was hounded for these issues during his presidential campaign. The AP reported that Obama said the votes represented a small portion — a little more than 3 percent — of the “roughly 4,000” votes he cast as a member of the state Senate. Obama’s allies and supporters have argued that his votes were not an attempt to dodge difficult issues. Instead, according to the Times, they claim Obama “used the present vote to protest bills that he believed had been drafted unconstitutionally or as part of a broader legislative strategy.”


Born in Centralia, Illinois, on August 3, 1937, Roland Burris (D-IL) earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a juris doctor degree from Howard University. After finishing law school in 1963, Burris became the first African American to work as a national bank examiner for the Treasury Department. When Burris was elected comptroller of Illinois in 1978, he was the first African American to win a statewide election in Illinois. After serving more than ten years as comptroller, he became attorney general of Illinois. Appointed to the Senate on December 31, 2008, Burris filled the vacancy caused by the resignation of Barack Obama, serving for less than one year. Burris’ appointment was surrounded by controversy because the governor was thought to be auctioning the seat. When the Illinois Secretary of State did not sign the Senate’s certification form, the Senate refused to seat him. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that only the governor’s signature was required, and Burris was finally seated. Burris served on the Committee on Armed Services the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.


Appointed to the Senate on January 2, 2013, Tim Scott (R-SC) became the first African American since Reconstruction to represent a Southern state in the Senate. Born in North Charleston, S.C., on September 19, 1965, Scott attended Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., before graduating with a bachelor of science degree from Charleston Southern University in Charleston, S.C., in 1988. An entrepreneur, Scott pursued a career in insurance and real estate. He served on the Charleston County, S.C., council from 1995 until 2008, and was a member of the South Carolina house of representatives from 2009 until 2010. Elected as a Republican representative to the One Hundred Twelfth Congress, Scott served one term in the House of Representatives before being appointed to the United States Senate. He was elected in a 2014 special election for the term ending January 3, 2017, and to a full term in 2016. Scott sits on the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, the Committee on Finance, the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and the Special Committee on Aging. Since his arrival in the Senate, Scott has been a reliable conservative, largely voting in line with party orthodoxy. He is ardently opposed to abortion rights, has steadfastly supported efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and has opposed gun control measures. More recently, he’s also proved to be a strong ally of Trump. Scott has voted in line with the president 94% of the time, according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight. In July, Scott was one of 22 Republican senators who signed a letter urging Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Scott has used his relationship with Trump as an opportunity to raise issues around race. Scott met with Trump after the President’s callous remarks about the violence in Charlottesville. In July of 2016, Following last summer’s widely publicized police shootings of black men in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas, Texas, Scott delivered a series of Senate floor speeches about his experience as a black man in America in the wake of a pair of fatal police shootings of black men – Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana – and the killing of five police officers in Dallas. He spoke with raw emotion of “the humiliation” he felt when he was pulled over by the police seven times in one year, with an officer suggesting in one instance that the car Scott was driving might be stolen. Scott also recalled being denied entry into an office building even as a senator, despite wearing the pin on his lapel that distinguishes him as a member of Congress.

The appointment of Massachusetts senator William “Mo” Cowan (D-MA) on February 1, 2013, marked the first time that two African Americans have served simultaneously in the United States Senate. Born in Yadkinville, North Carolina, in 1969, Cowan earned a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Duke University and a juris doctor degree from Northeastern University School of Law. After finishing law school in 1994, Cowan practiced civil litigation and became a partner in a law firm. Prior to entering the Senate, he served as chief legal counsel and chief of staff to Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. Cowan served in the Senate until July 15, 2013, a total of 5 months; a successor having been chosen in a special election. He was not a candidate for election to the unexpired portion of the term. Cowan from the start had no intentions on running in a special election to remain Senator for the rest of John Kerry’s term. Cowan was quoted in the Boston Herald as saying “This is going to be a very short political career.” Cowan served on the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Just two months into his Senate service, two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three spectators and injuring scores of others. Cowan later noted the outpouring of support from his Senate colleagues: “In April I experienced the very best of this body’s character . . . when Members from every corner of this Nation extended their sympathies, their prayers, and pledged their assistance and support for the city of Boston and to all those affected by that tragedy.” During his tenure in the 113th Congress, Cowan was involved with several pieces of legislation. He co-sponsored the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (S. 47) which passed the Senate on February 12th and the House on February 28th; the President signed it into law on March 7, 2013. Other than several unsuccessful amendments to the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 (S. 954), he personally introduced and sponsored two noteworthy bills. The first was a bill to amend the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 “to establish a market-driven inventory system” (S. 746). The amendment would allow farm producers, who elect to participate, the option of filing for recourse loans on specific crops such as corn, oats, barley, grain sorghum, wheat, and soybeans produced from 2014 through 2018. The second was a resolution designating November 28, 2013, as “National Holoprosencephaly Awareness Day” (S.Res. 152). Holoprosencephaly, or HPE, is a birth defect that targets the brain and can result in severe skull and facial defects. Senator Cowan left office before either bill could be debated on the Senate Floor.


Cory Booker (D-NJ) became the first African American to represent New Jersey in the United States Senate on October 31, 2013. Born in Washington, D.C., he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford and then attended The Queen’s College, University of Oxford, Oxford, England, as a Rhodes Scholar, where he received a graduate degree in 1994. Booker then attended Yale Law School, earning his juris doctor degree in 1997. He served on the Newark City Council from 1998 to 2002 and then as mayor of Newark from 2006 to 2013. As mayor of Newark, New Jersey, he “drew criticism from liberal allies for embracing charter schools and voucher programs advocated by libertarians.” “He also championed “enterprise zones,” a free-market approach to solving urban blight credited to the late Jack Kemp, a hard-core supply-sider and occasional Republican presidential contender who helped raise money for Booker’s first mayoral campaign.” Booker was elected to the United States Senate in a special election on October 16, 2013, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Frank Lautenberg, a seat subsequently held by appointed senator Jeffrey Chiesa, and took the oath of office on October 31, 2013, for the term ending January 3, 2015. He was elected to a full term in November 2014.

He has been described as a liberal, a moderate, and a neoliberal. In a July 2013 Salon interview, Booker said that “there’s nothing in that realm of progressive politics where you won’t find me.” However, in a September 2013 interview with The Grio, when asked if he considered himself a progressive, he avoided the term, saying he is a Democrat and an American. George Norcross III described Booker as “a new Democrat—a Democrat that’s fiscally conservative yet socially progressive.” In May 2012, Booker defended Bain Capital’s record and criticized Obama’s attack on private equity. During his years in office, he has voted on key legislation concerning U.S. economic, environmental, foreign, and national defense policy. He has been a leading voice in bipartisanship throughout his political career garnering praise and criticism from the left and right. His political ideology closely aligns with the New Democrat movement although he has been described as a “political moderate” and practitioner of “neoliberalism”. Considered a social liberal, Booker supports women’s rights, affirmative action, and single-payer healthcare.

Besides social media advances, Booker wants to see the rest of the tech sector reach its fullest potential, and to do that, he thinks the U.S. government needs to ease up on regulations. We’re not moving at the speed of innovation due to regulations,” he said, adding that because of this, key industries are leaving the U.S. to work on projects in other countries where the rules aren’t as strict. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration has hindered drone innovation to the point where drone companies are leaving the U.S. to test and build in Europe. “We’re being left behind on everything from next-generation nuclear energy to driverless cars and biologics,” Booker said, “and we cannot get left behind.” He supports long-term deficit reduction efforts to ensure economic prosperity, Cap and Trade taxation to combat climate change, and increased funding for education. He supports ending the War on Drugs. He supports abortion rights and affirmative action. Booker supports a single-payer health care plan. In September 2017, he joined Bernie Sanders and 14 other co-sponsors in submitting a single-payer health care plan to congress called the “Medicare for All” bill. On foreign policy, Booker supports scaling down U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and is against intervention in Syria. After the US strike on Syria in April 2017, Booker criticized military action “without a clear plan” or authorization from Congress. He supports a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. On Iran, Booker has stated the country poses a direct threat to American and Israeli security and feels all options should be on the table for dealing with the conflict. However, his decision to back the Iran nuclear deal framework damaged his long-term relationship with Jewish voters and supporters.

Booker serves on several Senate Committees: Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, including the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security where he is Ranking Member, the Committee on Environment and Public Works, the Committee on Foreign Relations including the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy where he is Ranking Member, the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and most recently, the Committee on the Judiciary.

According to several sources, Booker seems to be emerging as one of the top candidates for the Democratic Party. in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election as he fits several criteria Dems believe could take down the Trump Administration. In an era where bombast is seen as “electable,” Booker’s viral lashing toward Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is being seen as a good thing with Democrats. The party wants a leader that will not back down from Trump throughout a campaign, and in a debate, and Booker possesses many qualities that would leave one to believe he’s capable. Booker also campaigned for Doug Jones in Alabama, increasing his national visibility.


Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) became the first African American to represent California in the United States Senate on January 3, 2017. Born in Oakland, California, Harris graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C., before returning to California to attend the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. After earning her juris doctor degree, Harris served as the deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California, before becoming the managing attorney in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and then chief of the Division on Children and Families where she established California’s first Bureau of Children’s Justice. Harris was the first African American and first woman elected district attorney of San Francisco (2004-2011) and attorney general of California (2011-2016).

Kamala Harris has been characterized as “the unsilenced, the uncensored, the unstoppable.” She began her tenure flying with outspoken vigor. On January 21, 2017, a day after President Trump was sworn into office, Harris called the message of Trump’s inaugural address “dark” when speaking during the Women’s March on Washington. On January 28, following Trump signing the Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States executive order, which saw terror-prone countries’ denizens barred from entering the US for 90 days, Harris dubbed it a “Muslim ban”. In early February, Harris spoke in opposition to Trump’s cabinet picks Betsy DeVos, for Secretary of Education, and Jeff Sessions, for United States Attorney General. Later that month, in her first speech on the senate floor, Harris spent 12 minutes critiquing Trump’s immigration policies. In early March 2017, Harris called on Attorney General Sessions to resign, after it was reported that Sessions spoke twice with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak. On March 14, Harris claimed repealing the Affordable Care Act would send the message of health care being a “privilege” rather than a “civil right”.

Harris’ Committee assignments include: Committee on the Budget, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs , Select Committee on Intelligence and, Committee on the Judiciary. As both an Asian and Black woman, she is part of 3 caucuses: Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues

Harris has a 100% rating from NARAL, opposes the death penalty in general, but has said that she would review each case individually. During her time as San Francisco District Attorney, Harris created the Environmental Justice Unit in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office[162] and prosecuted several industries and individuals for pollution, most notably U-Haul, Alameda Publishing Corporation, and the Cosco Busan oil spill. She also advocated for strong enforcement of environmental protection laws. Harris has an F rating from the National Rifle Association for her consistent efforts supporting gun control. She has come out strong for DREAMERS – California is home to more Dreamers than any other state. She co-sponsored Sander’s “Medicare for All” bill.

There is also talk that Harris will run for president. We shall see.

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BHM 2018 Day 5 – Black Ambassadors

Hi all,
This is a compilation of about 10 different articles about our presence in foreign service. It turns out that many of the people in foreign service are not politicians, so I am deviating from my plans. But I hope you will find this interesting. I will point out that many of these articles were written when Obama was in office, so they are not up-to-date. I have no idea whether Trump has appointed any black ambassadors. I don’t want to think about it. Also, the tables didn’t survive. I have tried to make them readable.


Since 1776 when the United States sent its first envoy to France, men and later women diplomats have been assigned to be the nation’s official representatives in global capitals and to international organizations where they are responsible for major foreign policy portfolios. Prior to 1893 those individuals were called (Diplomatic) Ministers and Envoys. Two of the first black diplomats served in the 1800’s. William Alexander Leidesdorff, was appointed vice consul in Yerba Buena, Mexico, (today’s San Francisco) on October 29, 1845 by the Tomas O. Larkin, the U.S. consul in Monterey, Mexico. Yale graduate Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett, was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant as Minister Resident and Consul General in Haiti in 1869.

Since 1893, the title of ambassadors was conferred on those heading U.S. diplomatic delegations to their respective nations and organizations. The Ambassador is the president’s full-time personal representative on the ground. As such, each Ambassador must be appointed by the U.S. president (and then be confirmed by the U.S. Senate). Presidential appointment is one of the reasons why in many places a political appointee is much preferred. Said six-time career ambassador Terrance Todman, “if this guy isn’t career, yet the president picked and sent him here, he must be a buddy. And if anything happens he can, ”Hey, Prez,” and it’s done. That’s what a country is looking for. They’re looking for a channel of direct communication and a person of influence.”

Since 1893 there have been more than two thousand two hundred Americans who have held this title and rank. Only 149 of those have been black Americans. The first American ambassador of African descent was Edward Dudley who at age thirty-eight was first appointed by President Harry Truman as minister to Liberia. Upon elevation of that mission to full embassy status, Dudley was elevated to the rank of U.S. ambassador to Liberia in 1949. Every U.S. president since then has appointed at least one black American as a U.S. ambassador.

African-American ambassadors have come from all walks of life. Their higher education backgrounds range from small community colleges to large public research institutions, Ivy League universities to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), U.S.-based universities to universities abroad, as well as women’s universities and the military academies. This educational diversity is also matched by their professional diversity since these ambassadors have been drawn from the academy, from corporate America, from public office, from entertainment, and even from the pulpit.

As ambassadors, black Americans have been appointed to lead U.S. diplomatic delegations in at least ninety-five nations. They have also represented U.S. interests before the United Nations and other international or regional organizations, and have led the strategic initiatives to combat terrorism, prosecute war crimes, promote trade, and promote religious freedom. At least forty have been appointed on two or more different occasions to multiple postings, bringing the total amount of times a black American has successfully been appointed to a total of 209.

Politically, Democratic presidents have appointed eighty black Americans to their first ambassadorial appointments, while Republicans have appointed sixty-nine. At least eighteen of the 149 black American ambassadors were appointed by both a Democrat and a Republican president to one of their multiple postings, demonstrating that ambassadorial appointments of individuals do not always happen only along partisan lines. As the table below illustrates, President G. W. Bush tops this list as he accredited a black American on forty-four occasions during his presidency. President Obama, nearing the end of his term, has so far appointed a black American on forty-two occasions to an ambassadorial posting. Of the fifty-two black women who have served as U.S. ambassador, President G. W. Bush appointed the largest number of them, doing so on twenty-three occasions during his presidency.

Table 1: Appointment of Black Americans to the Ambassadorship by U.S. Presidents

Truman 1945 – 53 Democrat 1
Eisenhower 1053 – 61 Republican 3
Kennedy 1961 – 63 Democrat 3
Johnson 1963 – 69 Democrat 9
Nixon 1969 – 74 Republican 12
Ford 1974 – 77 Republican 5
Carter 1977 – 81 Democrat 16
Reagan 1981 – 89 Republican 18
G. H. Bush 1989 – 93 Republican 16
Clinton 1993 – 2001 Democrat 40
G. W. Bush 2001 – 09 Republican 44
Obama 2009 – present Democrat 42

The countries of Africa south of the Sahara have by far had the most black Americans as U.S. ambassadors as one has been accredited to a country in this region on 127 occasions. Black Americans have served as ambassadors to all but two – Angola and Mauritania – of the nations of sub-Saharan Africa. No other region comes close in representation. Black ambassadors have served on fifteen occasions in East Asia and the Pacific, fifteen occasions at various posts in the United Nations or other international organizations, fourteen occasions in Europe and Eurasian countries, twelve in Caribbean countries, nine in countries of Central and South America, seven in countries in the Near East/North Africa, and six at-large or other ambassadorial appointments. With only three black Americans serving as ambassadors, South and Central Asia is the world region that has seen the least number of black Americans as ambassadors.

Below is a snapshot of some of the historical firsts, among black ambassadors, some ambassadors with well-known names as well as ambassadors who were noteworthy because of activities they participated in.

Frederick Douglass, Haiti,1889 Famous abolitionist

Clifton Reginald Wharton Sr. Norway,1961 joined the Foreign Service in 1925, first African-American Foreign Service Officer to become chief of a diplomatic mission when he was appointed Minister to Romania on February 5, 1958.

Carl T. Rowan, Finland, 1963 In 1961, appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State by President John F. Kennedy. 1962, delegate to the United Nations during the Cuban Missile Crisis. U.S. Ambassador to Finland in 1963. In 1964, appointed director of the United States Information Agency (USIA) by President Lyndon B. Johnson. In serving as director of the USIA, Rowan became the first African American to hold a seat on the National Security Council and the highest level African American in the United States government.

Patricia Roberts Harris, Luxembourg,1965 first African American Woman in U.S. history to hold the rank of Ambassador -,

Terence Todman,
Chad, 1969,
Guinea, 1972,
Costa Rica, 1974,
Spain, 1978,
Denmark, 1983,
Argentina, 1989 Career ambassador, most ambassadorships of any African-American.

Jerome Heartwell Holland Sweden,1970 2nd Ambassador to a European nation, president of Hampton Institute, first African American to serve on the board of directors for the New York Stock Exchange

Andrew Young U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, 1977 Mayor of Atlanta, a Congressman the 5th district,

George E. Moose
Benin, 1983
Senegal 1988,
European Office of the United Nations in Geneva in 1997; Career ambassador, first black Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (1993)

Ulric Haynes Jr., Algeria, 1977 instrumental in the negotiations that ultimately led to the 1981 release of American hostages in Iran during the well-documented Iranian hostage crisis.

Edward J. Perkins –
Liberia, 1985,
South Africa, 1986,
United Nations 1992
Australia, 1993
Career ambassador, Director of the Office of West African Affairs (1983-1985). First black Director General of the Foreign Service,(1989)

Johnny Young –
Sierra Leone 1989
Togo 1994
Bahrain 1997
Slovenia 2001
Career ambassador, While in Slovenia from Young helped persuade Slovenian leaders to join The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).

Aurelia Erskine Brazeal Micronesia 1990
,Kenya 1993
Ethiopia 2002
first African American female Foreign Service Officer (FSO) to rise from the entry level to the senior ranks of the Foreign Service as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs..

Ruth A. Davis
Republic of Benin, 1992
the first African American woman Career Ambassador

Carl B. Stokes Seychelles, 1994 Mayor of Cleveland in 1967,

Diane Edith Watson Micronesia, 1998 U.S. Congresswoman representing South Central Los Angeles since 2000

Carol Moseley-Braun, New Zealand and Samoa, 1999 US Senator from Illinois

Linda Thomas-Greenfield Liberia, 2008 Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Africa Affairs (2013)

Susan Rice. United States Ambassador to the United Nations, 2009-2013 Served on the staff of the National Security Council (1993) and as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (1997)

The last article I found was an interview with Terence Todman. Todman is one of the few people to attain the rank of career ambassador – the equivalent of a four-star general – in the Department of State, having served as ambassador to six different countries. He is also one of the few African Americans to be so honored and was known for his outspokenness during a time of segregated dining facilities, when few minorities could be found at any level of the Department. Todman began his career in the State Department in 1952. This is snippets from the interview that I thought were interesting because they give some insight into the realities of being a black diplomat.

Getting into the State Department is something that I think is worth saying a word about, because although I had passed the exams and I was told that I was in, the day that I reported for work, the chief of personnel said he was very sorry but State couldn’t hire me. Then I asked what he was talking about. I had turned down everything to come to do this and I had been told that I was accepted. Now here I am reporting for work and you tell me this. “What do you mean?”

He said, “Well, we reviewed your record and we found that you’re not the kind of person we can use. We need in the U.S. Foreign Service people who are 100 percent identifiable as Americans. And we note from your record that in reviewing it again that your accent is not such that you would be readily and immediately identified as American. And so, we don’t really think we could have you in the Foreign Service.”

And I asked, “Well, what the hell am I supposed to do now?” And he said, “Well, because of the commitments we had made, we’ll give you the opportunity to go and speak to the head of the office to which we were going to assign you. And if he will take you, then we will not object.”

This was my first day in the State Department. I go over for the interview and, God bless him, William Witman said, “Look, I have a lot of work to do in this office. I can’t afford to have anyone here who isn’t going to be producing to meet what I require.”

And I said, “I think very highly of myself. And if you didn’t have work for me to do I wouldn’t want to be in your office,” And he said, “OK, you’ve got a job. Let’s see how it works out.”… And interestingly enough it was Bill, later when he was named Ambassador to Togo, who called up and asked if I would come and be his Deputy Chief of Mission. This allowed me to then get into that very exclusive class of people who get a chance to run missions.

Q: I came across a number of State Department documents, all the way from the 1940s, all the way, really, up into the 1960s talking about where the State Department could and could not send black Americans to serve because of the country’s practices and so forth. One of the areas that they seemed very tense about, was sending black Americans to Arabic nations. Did you find any problem?

TODMAN: Absolutely not! I am prepared to say that that business about not being able to send blacks was purely concocted within the State Department; it was made out of whole cloth. It was a total lie. I never found in any of the places that I went to that there was any question of any resentment or anything. The only question that people ever had, and you would get this as they got to talk to you, you would feel some doubt: “Does this person have the influence with his own country to be able to get for us what we need?”
But as far as color, as far as any of those other things were concerned, zero. The problem has been, and is, in the United States of America. The only opposition that I ever found, anywhere, has been from Americans. I found it in Costa Rica: Americans, only Americans. In Spain: Americans, only Americans.
In the Arab world? Not a hint, absolutely not a hint of it. And the Arab world would be the last place. You go through the Arab world and how many blacks do you find? And you find them doing everything. You find them in positions of importance, in their own country and they’re all over. So, this was story concocted by Americans to keep from doing these things. It’s damned nonsense.

TODMAN: A couple of reasons. One is American society as such. But another one is the Foreign Service, the Foreign Service corps. There’s a group that develops; it’s an in-group. Once you’re there, you preserve and protect it, and you want only people like you. Then it’s a heck of a lot easier to protect your own position. Also, it’s an elite group and one of the ways to insure that you maintain the sense of elitism is to not have too many people in who’ll be different. That’s part of the elite too.

The one case in which I’ve ever seen that to work was in AID when the man who was head of the Africa Bureau said, “You will bring blacks into this bureau.” I wrote about it sometime and made a speech on it, because it was so impressive. He refused to allow anybody else to be appointed. He got, as you always get, the same story: “We can’t find anyone qualified who will do it,” and then you say, “OK, if you can’t find anyone, then I guess I’ll have to yield.” But he said, “We won’t fill it.” And after a while the people who needed to get the work done realized that it was better to go ahead and get someone because he was serious about it.

And wanting your own kind doesn’t imply and is not intended to suggest any animosity towards others. Exclusion often isn’t because you hate one group or that you don’t want them; it’s often because you want some others and that effectively keeps out the other side, without there being any, “I don’t want you around.” It’s not, “I don’t want you around.” It is, “I want him around and I only have room for one.”…

Q: You held ambassadorial positions for about a quarter century, from the late-60s into the early-90s. Did you see any changes in the status and the position of the ambassador in terms of the foreign policy making chain of command in the United States during that period? Did the ambassador lose importance, gain importance? What kinds of changes took place, it any?

TODMAN: I think that the ambassador lost importance. I think that it started when you got a peripatetic secretary of state, who decided that if there’s any important issue he would have to go out personally and deal with it. And as this occurred you got chiefs of state saying that it’s not worth talking to the ambassador because that means it’s not important enough; we need to discuss it and we need the secretary to come. There used to be more roving ambassadors who would come and bring a special message sometimes, which was OK.

But the Secretary of State was at home controlling the whole thing and looking at it, and you could go back and ask about it. That’s gone. I think some areas of the world get neglected, totally, because there’s nobody back home minding the shop who can send out the serious kinds of instructions that you want. You don’t get the consistency you need. And some other areas get over-attended, but attended at a level that they shouldn’t be getting, at least in personal and direct terms. I think it’s a change for the worse. I don’t know whether or when we can ever recoup from that, but it’s unfortunate.

That has had a major difference in the way diplomacy is practiced, because now there’s a need for a lot more thoughtfulness and giving more rationale for action rather than telling what the action is– precision about what happened and explanations of why it happened, and bringing people along.

And the other way the role of the ambassador has been diminished, which is even worse, is by the number of direct contacts that are made between senior U.S. government officials and senior host country officials. Increasingly, people bypass the embassy totally and pick up the phone and call somebody that they met in a conference. And it doesn’t have to be from the Secretary, from the Department of State even, where at least you’d know what was going on, but it can be from any department that has business overseas, any of them, directly to counterparts in foreign governments, with the result that the department, the ambassador, may or may not know.

I have always contended, and continue to contend, that you don’t do this for the minorities, you do this for the United States. We need, as a country, the very best input that we can get into policy formulation and policy implementation. There are sensitivities that people bring into a meeting that you can’t get otherwise, and sometimes the very composition of the meeting, even if the person does nothing, becomes a reminder, when things are being considered, how they ought to be treated. It just clicks something there.

And the same person would see things differently, or speak about things, or approach things, in one context with one group of people, from the way he or she would do with a different group. And it’s not because of any bad intentions or anything else, it’s just that the circumstances, the atmosphere, bring out things that it’s important to have as input into our policy formulation and execution.

We’re denying ourselves of this by not bringing in minorities. When we’re talking about China, Japan, and other Asian countries, it would make an enormous amount of difference to have some people of Asian background sitting in that meeting as we discuss what we’re going to do. Just seeing them there, one would react differently. And inputs and sensitivities that they would have would make a difference. So, as I look for what is good for the United States, which is the bottom line for me, I think we’re doing ourselves an enormous disservice. And so I’ve raised it constantly over the years, and it’s just because there is no desire to act on it that nothing has happened.…

The unfortunate thing is that most of your problems are with your own government, because people don’t have a perspective of dealing with others. And we’re so accustomed, in this country, to having everything, to doing what we want, making what we want happen, that we’re not always as conscious about people out there. And we’re very quick to accuse people of localitis, which is unfortunate, because if the people who are on the scene don’t express what they’re seeing, then who is going to?

I used to spend a lot of time, as I spoke in communities around the United States, reminding people that much of what they made was sold overseas, much of what they used, consumed in the U.S., was made overseas, that they live in an interdependent world where the ties are everywhere. And you need some people who are doing the job of making sure that these things work and work primarily for the interest of the United States.

I think we get caught up also in military might, that we forget sometimes that that doesn’t solve anything. And so the role of the diplomat is somehow undervalued, even by people who are in government, in policy making. I think today we’re arriving at a time in the United States when we somehow feel that physical, military, security is the only thing that we should look for, and we don’t work with people if they’re not making a definite contribution to that. I think that we can lose a great deal if we get carried away with that, because there are issues of justice, there are issues of decency, of humanity, that are important.

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BHM 2018 – Day 3: Members of the Presidential Cabinet, Part 1

African Americans in Presidential Cabinets

Ever since President Johnson appointed Robert Weaver to be the Housing and Urban Development Secretary, we have been at the executive table and part of the overseeing arm of the federal government. All totaled, since 1966, there have been 22 of us. It is somewhat sad that we keep getting chosen to head up “Urban Development”, but we have had other positions as well. Secretary of State, Commerce, Agriculture, Labor and Energy, and Attorney General. The only positions we have not held are Defense, Interior and Treasury. I want to take a look at the Departments as well as the men and women who ran them, to show a bit of the power we have had in the last 60 years.

Robert Weaver was born in 1907 and was Harvard educated, including a doctorate in economics. His involvement in presidential politics dates back to the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt, when he was one of 45 prominent African Americans who made up the “Black Cabinet”, or Federal Council of Negro Affairs. The Black Cabinet worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to make sure that blacks got 10% of the welfare funds from “The New Deal”. The Department of Housing and Urban Development was designed by Kennedy to deal with the substandard, aged housing left in US cities after white-flight and the problems of unemployment. Some of HUDs agencies and offices include the Federal Housing Administration which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage agencies, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, the Office of Public and Indian Housing which runs Section 8, and the Office of Community Planning and Development which deals with affordable housing and homelessness. Kennedy initially started the work necessary to create HUD and Johnson finished it, appointing Weaver in 1966. The first black woman to reach a cabinet position was also Secretary of HUD. Patricia Roberts Harris was born in 1924, a Delta from Howard with a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University. In addition to a short stint as Dean of Howard’s Law School, Harris was formerly the Ambassador to Luxembourg under Johnson and on the Board of Directors for IBM, Scott Paper and Chase Manhattan Bank. Carter appointed her as HUD secretary, and later Secretary of Health and Human Services. During confirmation one senator suggested that she had too much wealth to head HUD. Her reply: I am a black woman, the daughter of a Pullman (railroad) car waiter. I am a black woman who even eight years ago could not buy a house in parts of the District of Columbia. I didn’t start out as a member of a prestigious law firm, but as a woman who needed a scholarship to go to school. If you think I have forgotten that, you are wrong.

The next HUD Secretary was Samuel Pierce, appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981. Pierce, born in 1922, was an Eagle Scout, a member of both A Phi A and Alpha Phi Omega at Cornell, part of the US Army CID during WW II, and had law degrees from Cornell and New York University. A life-long Republican, he had government positions under Eisenhower, Governor Rockefeller of New York and under Nixon. However, he also argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of MLK. Pierce permitted a fair amount of corruption to occur under his watch including political favoritism, mismanagement and abuse, involving millions of dollars. Many under him were charged and convicted of felony charges. He was not one of the Secretaries to be proud of.

Another HUD Secretary was Alphonso Jackson under George W. Bush. Born in 1945, he attended Truman State, and got his law degree from Washington University. He worked with housing issues throughout his career, including director of the US Department of Public and Assisted Housing in DC and the Housing Authority of Dallas which he drastically cleaned up from a series of discrimination lawsuits. with run-down housing buildings and unsafe conditions to a city with high standards for housing and commercial development projects. Jackson knew Bush personally, was nominated as Deputy Secretary, and then rose to Secretary in 2004. But he resigned under allegations of unethical conduct in the awarding of HUD contracts. Ben Carson has been named the most recent HUD Secretary and has served for the past year.

There have been 3 black men in the role of Secretary of Transportation. The role of the Department of Transportation is “to Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible, and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future. It includes the Federal Aviation Administration (air traffic control and satellite management), the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration a Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (2.6 million miles of pipeline transporting 1 million daily shipments of hazardous materials and 64% of US energy commodities) and an Office of Inspector General (oversight for fraud). The first black Secretary of Transportation was William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr, nominated by Gerald Ford in 1975. Born in 1920, as can be expected, Coleman faced traditional racism as a child: Coleman was suspended for cursing at a teacher after she praised his honors presentation by saying, “Someday, William, you will make a wonderful chauffeur.”[ When Coleman attempted to join the school’s swim team he was again suspended, and the team disbanded after he returned so as to avoid admitting him, only to re-form after he graduated. Coleman attended University of Pennsylvania, served in WWII and attended Harvard Law. In 1947, he was a Law Clerk for the Supreme Court. He also worked as counsel on Brown vs. Board of Education – the Supreme Court case that ended segregation nationwide in public schools. In addition to his work as a lawyer, he worked with the NAACP, the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of Kennedy, was on a delegation to the UN and served on the boards of Pepsico, IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank and PanAm. As DOT Secretary, he presided over issues of pipeline safety, the supersonic Concorde jet, and use of car airbags. The next black DOT Secretary was Rodney Slater, under Bill Clinton in 1997. Born in 1955, Slater attended Eastern Michigan University and got his law degree from University of Arkansas. Slater had several positions under Clinton during Clinton’s tenure of Arkansas governor. As president, Clinton appointed Slater to run the Federal Highway Administration in 1993, and to the DOT Secretary position in 1997. During his tenure, Slater negotiated a $200 billion investment in surface transportation and laws to improve airline safety. The last DOT Secretary was Anthony Foxx under Barack Obama in 2013. Born in 1971, he attended Davidson College and New York University law school. In addition to his legal work, he served as a law clerk in Cincinnati, worked for the department of Justice and the Congressional Judiciary Committee. He served as mayor of Charlotte, NC in 2009, creating 4000 jobs and reinforcing Charlotte’s role as a critical energy industry hub. Obama picked him as DOT Secretary, resigning from his mayoral position. He won transportation moneys for 72 different projects nationwide in a single year of his tenure.

In 1979, Carter created the Department of Health and Human Services, splitting up Health, Education and Welfare into a Health Department and a Department of Education. Carter tapped Patricia Harris Roberts to leave HUD and fill the role of Secretary for the new department. HHS currently runs Medicaid and Medicare, the Centers for Disease control, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health as well as other agencies. The second black HHS secretary was Louis Wade Sullivan, appointed in 1989 by George W. Bush. Sullivan, born in 1933, was a graduate of Morehouse College and Boston School of Medicine. He went on to teach at Harvard, Seton Hall College, became co-director of hematology at Boston University then dean and later president of Morehouse School of Medicine. As HHS secretary, Sullivan oversaw creation of the FDA food label, and the public education program focused on the health dangers from tobacco use. After ending his position as Secretary of HHS, he went back to Morehouse College of Medicine and served for another 20 years.

Bill Clinton has the historical position of having had the most black cabinet members on his staff, with a total of 7, in his 8 year tenure. In his first term, he named Mike Espy as Secretary of Agriculture, Ron Brown as Secretary of Commerce, Hazel O’Leary as Secretary of Energy and Jesse Brown as Secretary of Veteran Affairs. Mike Espy, born in 1953, was educated in Howard and received his law degree from Santa Clara University. He worked in many political positions including Assistant Secretary of State in Mississippi, Assistant State Attorney General. As Secretary of Agriculture (USDA), Espy was head of the SNAP/Food Stamp program, as well as developing and executing federal laws related to farming, agriculture, forestry, and food. Unfortunately, Espy only served for one year, and was accused, but acquitted, of accepting gifts. He went back to work as a lawyer in 2008. Ron Brown, born in 1941, educated at Middlebury College, the racism Brown encountered included his membership to Sigma Phi Epsilon. The national charter of SPE at Middlebury was rescinded and the fraternity became a local known as Sigma Epsilon. Brown served in the Army in 1962 in both Korea and Europe, worked in the Urban League then got a law degree from St. Johns University. Brown worked on Edward Kennedy’s presidential campaign, and then went on to become a lobbyist. In 1989 he was chairman of the Democratic National Committee, helping to secure Clinton’s presidency. Brown was subsequently made Secretary of Commerce, the arm of the government concerned with economic growth and job creation. The Department of Commerce includes some surprising offices, including the Census Bureau, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service, the Patent and Trademark offices and the National Institute for Standards and Technology. Several administrations, including the Obama administration have proposed eliminating and redistributing the Department. Ron Brown died in a plane crash in 1996. Hazel O’Leary was born in 1937 earned her bachelors from Fisk and her law degree at Rutgers. O’Leary had a strong legal record, as a prosecutor, as well as a history of working in Energy offices under President Carter. From 1989-1993 she was working as an executive VP to Northern States Power Company in Minnesota. It was O’Leary who oversaw reducing the department by 1/3rd, and shifting the focus from Nuclear Energy to efficient and renewable energy. She also declassified documents showing how the US had conducted radiation experiments on US citizens such as mentally disabled children, impoverished pregnant women, US soldiers and prisoners. When O’Leary left political life, she ran a consulting firm, and then became Fisk University president in 2004. Jesse Brown, born in 1944, was a Marine Corp veteran who served in Vietnam, was disabled and went to work for the DAV. In 1988, he became executive director. The Department of Veterans Affairs runs the Veterans Health Administration, the Veterans Benefits Administration and the National Cemetery Administration. While Brown was secretary, he expanded services offered to female veterans, homeless veterans and veterans exposed to chemicals during Vietnam.

. In 1997, Clinton named Alexis Herman to Secretary of Labor, Slater to Transportation and Togo West Jr. to Veteran Affairs. Alexis Herman was born in 1947 and earned her bachelors from Xavier University as a Delta. Herman spent most of her career as a labor advocate, in Mississippi, Georgia and New York. Carter appointed her to the Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau in 1977 where she worked to get more minority women hired to Fortune 500 firms. Later, Herman worked on Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns and served as chief of staff under Ron Brown for the Democratic National Committee. In 1992, Herman was deputy director of the Presidential Transition Office, then Director of the Office of Public Liaison. Some of her major work was winning support for NAFTA. The Department of Labor is responsible for occupational safety, wage and hour standards and unemployment insurance benefits, as well as other labor related matters. Herman was responsible for two minimum wage increases and personally served as mediator for the 1997 UPS workers strike. After the end of Clinton’s term, Herman stayed involved in campaign politics with Gore, Kerry and Hillary Clinton. She has 20 honorary doctorates. Togo West Jr. followed Jesse Brown as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Born in 1942, West was an Eagle Scout and high school valedictorian, with an engineering degree and law degree from Howard, West was a member of both Alpha Phi Omega and Omega Psi Phi. West joined the army in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps in 1965, practiced law briefly and then was appointed as Associate Deputy Attorney General under Ford. Before serving as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, West was Secretary of the Army from 1993-1998. West only served as Secretary of Veteran Affairs for two years, after which he returned to private practice.

Tomorrow, I will cover the remaining Secretaries.

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