Black Congressman During Reconstruction

December 15, 2016 Education

Joseph H. Rainey
Joseph Hayne Rainey was the first African American to serve in the United States House of Representatives. He was also the African American to preside over the house and the longest serving African American during the Reconstruction period.
Joseph Hayne Rainey was born on June 21, 1832 into slavery in Georgetown, South Carolina. His family was of French descent. His father was a barber and was allowed to work independently if he shared some of his profit with their slave master. Joseph??™s father then saved enough money to buy his family??™s freedom in the early 1840s. Soon after they moved to Charleston, South Carolina. In South Carolina, Joseph received a limited education and was taught the barbers trade by his father. In the 1850s, Joseph??™s father bought two male slaves. Joseph then left home and traveled to Philadelphia.
In Philadelphia, Joseph met his wife, Susan, and a French mulatto from the West Indies. There Joseph Rainey continued to work as a barber and had three children wit his wife. Soon after, the Confederate Army called Rainey to serve in the Civil War. He dug trenches to fortify the outskirts of Charleston. Then he worked as a cook and then as a steward aboard a blockade runner, a Confederate ship charged with carrying tradable goods. Sure to all the pressure of the war, in 1862, Joseph and his wife ran away to Bermuda, because Bermuda had had abolished slavery. Bermuda proved that it was a safe place for the Raineys??™ to settle. They returned back to South Carolina is 1866, hearing that the war had ended.
In Bermuda Joseph Rainey gained lots of wealth and it elevated his status in the community of South Carolina. He became active in the Republican Party. He became the Republican county chairman of Georgetown, South Carolina. He attended political conferences and was assigned to take the census of Georgetown. He worked as a state agent for land commission and was also a part of the state militia. He was elected to his first public office in 1870 and won a seat in the state senate, where he became the chairman of the finance committee.
With such a huge political impact from his background, he proved to be helpful to the senate. Joseph Rainey was then nominated to take the rest of Representative Benjamin Whittemore??™s term after he resigned in 1870. He took his place and was then nominated for a second term from 1871 to 1873. He beat white competitors easily during the race for a seat in senate. Joseph??™s policies met approval by both white and Africa-American voters.
When Joseph Rainey joined the Senate, it seemed as if his career had just began. In a way, that is true, because he started getting recognition of his work more broadly. After three consecutive years in Congress, Rainey was appointed the internal-revenue agent of South Carolina. After he resigned this occupation after two years, and engaged in brokerage and banking in Washington. He was successful in this part of his life too. Due to his record in Congress, he was easily recognized and received benefits.
Joseph Rainey, finally, retired from all business in 1886. He returned to Georgetown to live with his family. He later died in August of 1887, and was buried in a Baptist Cemetery.

Jefferson Long
Jefferson Long was a slave-born in Georgia on March 3, 1836. He was the first African American from Georgia to be elected in the United States House of Representatives. Even though he served for less than three months, he was the first black to speak on the House Floor. This kind of recognition was very shocking for a slave-born, who also educated himself.
Growing up, he did not have the benefits of school, so he decided to teach himself how to read and write. He was trained as a merchant tailor and after being emancipated at the end of the Civil War he decided to open his own business in Macon, Georgia. Shortly after, he married Lucinda Carhart and raised seven children. One of Long??™s son??™s helped with the tailoring business.
Georgia did not have a population where most of the population was black, unlike neighboring South Carolina. Since Long was a prosperous tailor and well known he started to promote literacy for the small population of African Americans. Long became active in the Macon Union League. He also became active in the Georgia Educational Association, which was the association that helped protect and advance the interests of Freedman. He helped introduce the Georgian freedman to politics and the Republican Party. He taught both black and white people and encouraged them to register to vote.
He served on the Republican state committee and became leader of the Labor Convention in Georgia. The convention organized black agricultural workers to demand increased wages, better jobs, and to improve working conditions. He was frustrated when Congress delayed Georgia??™s re-entry into the Union. Congress had delayed the process because the state legislature did not ratify the 14th amendment and white Republicans and Conservatives expelled 29 legally elected black members from the legislature. In June 1870, many terms were agreed and Georgia was permitted to return to Congress.
A Congress election was held for many places and Long was elected. Long gave speeches to people to vote for the Republicans. On election day, he rallied many people and marched them to the polls. Many armed whites were waiting and a riot broke out. Four people were killed and scared blacks left without voting. White politicians accused blacks of voting many times and spread rumors that African Americans from South Carolina had came and voted in the elections. Even after all the conflict, Long defeated his opponent, Democrat Winburn Lawton.
His term in congress was so short that he was not assigned to any committees, yet he still was determined to fight for the civil rights for slaves. He spoke before the hose on February 1, 1871, because he disagreed with a bill that exempted former Confederate politicians from swearing allegiance to the Constitution. He argued that there should not be unrepentant Confederates in Congress because many belonged to the Klu Klux Klan. Many reporters reported on Long??™s address and commended his oratorical skills. His efforts were of good cause and the House voted 118 to 90 to grant Confederates remission.
Long was the only black Representative until Andrew Young won a seat in 1972. After leaving Congress, Long returned to his tailoring business. He still remained active in politics but didn??™t run for public office, because he felt that the whites shut out the blacks in office. He became very frustrated by republican leaders because they didn??™t protect black southerners. However his reputation as a radical politican eventually cost him his business to whites. Unable to survive with his tailoring business he started to open business at a liquor shop and then a dry-cleaning shop. He remained self-employed until his death in 1901.

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