First African-American U.S. House Of Representatives

February 1, 2012 by staff 

First African-American U.S. House Of Representatives, African Americans began serving in greater numbers in the United States Congress during the Reconstruction Era following the American Civil War after slaves were emancipated and granted citizenship rights. Freedmen gained political representation in the Southern United States for the first time.

The Compromise of 1877 initiated the period that followed, known as Redemption among white southerners.
Conservative, mostly white Democrats regained political power in state legislatures across the South and worked to restore white supremacy.

State legislatures reduced voting by blacks by passing more restrictive electoral and voter registration rules, amending constitutions to the same ends from 1890-1910, and passing Jim Crow laws to establish racial segregation and restrict labor rights, movement and organizing by blacks.

The Democratic Party essentially dominated the “Solid South” until the 1960s. As a result of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the US Congress passed laws to end segregation and protect civil rights and voting rights.

During two waves of massive migration within the United States in the first half of the 20th century, more than 6 million African Americans moved from the South to northern and midwestern industrial cities. Some were elected to national political office from their new locations.

During the Great Depression, many black voters switched allegiances from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, in support of the New Deal economic, social network, and work policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. This trend continued in the 1960s.

At the same time, there was a different movement among whites in the South, who began to vote for Republican candidates for national and then state offices.

A total of 123 African Americans have served in the United States Congress, most in the United States House of Representatives. This includes five non-voting members of the House of Representatives, who represented the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. An additional House candidate was elected in 1868 but was not seated due to an election dispute.

Six African Americans have served in the U.S. Senate, two in the Republican Party from Mississippi during the Reconstruction Era and four more recently: three Democrats from Illinois (including Barack Obama) and one Republican from Massachusetts.

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