June 21, 1832 ~ Joseph Haynes Rainey

Joseph Haynes Rainey, was born today in Georgetown, South Carolina in 1832 and would become the first African-American representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Born into Slavery, Rainey’s father bought his freedom. At the outbreak of the American Civil War, Rainey was conscripted by the Confederates to work on fortifications, but he eventually escaped to Bermuda with his family.

In 1866, following the war’s end, Rainey returned to Charleston and ran for office.

At the time Charleston had an African American population of 43%. Rainey was elected to the State Senate before running for Congress in 1870. He won and became the first elected African America in the U.S. House.

During his terms in Congress, Rainey supported legislation to protect the civil rights of Southern black people, working for two years to gain passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1875.

New segregation and Jim crow laws in South Carolina eventually crippled the his influence and the influence of black voters resulting in Rainey’s defeat in the 1878 election.

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