Feb. 20, 2020

Joseph H. Rainey December 12, 1870 The First African American To Serve In The US Congress

In our history in this country there have been many individuals who rose above their circumstances to make a mark in this country’s progression to true and unbinding democracy. As we celebrate this month what should be celebrated everyday black historical accomplishments. The Blackman Read Aloud Hour Project remembers Joseph Hayne Rainey, born in Georgetown, South Carolina to enslaved parents in 1832, becoming on December 12, 1870, the first African American to serve in the United States House of Representatives and only the second person to serve Congress after U.S. Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi. He was elected to Congress four times as a Republican, serving until March 3, 1879, which made him the longest-serving black Congressman during the Reconstruction era. In a speech given on the floor of Congress in 1871, Rainey challenges a New York Democratic representative who made disparaging remarks about the black members of the South Carolina state legislature. You must understand that Joseph Rainey did all this while residing in one of the most racist states in the nation. The state that produced John Calhoun and Ben Tillman, two men who had absolutely no love or respect for people of color.