African American Legislators

in Virginia

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission ("MLK Commission") began the Virginia African American Legislators Project in the early 2000's and emphasized the Project during the Commonwealth's two-year commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. The Project is designed to create a database of all African Americans ever elected to serve in the Virginia General Assembly, from Reconstruction to the present. The Commission is appreciative of the generous assistance of former Secretary of Administration Viola Baskerville, Project Leader, the Library of Virginia, and the extensive research conducted by Ms. Baskerville and its legislative staff. Several resources were consulted, including A Register of the General Assembly of Virginia, 1776–1918, the Library of Virginia "Virginia Memory" database, and the groundbreaking research of Dr. Eric Foner, Freedom's Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction (1996), and of Dr. Luther Porter Jackson, Negro Office-Holders in Virginia 1865–1895 (1945).

To celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 2013, the Commission determined that the Project should be launched with a roll call of the African American men who were elected to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868 and to the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia during Reconstruction from 1869 to 1890. African Americans elected to the Virginia General Assembly after Reconstruction and to the present day will be added to the database soon. Please check back for updates.

Short biographies of African American Legislators

(choose one to learn more)

Historical Background (excerpted from SJR 13/HJR 65, 2012)

With the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, with the promulgation of the Virginia Consitiution of 1864 on April 7, 1864, and with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee on April 9, 1865, marking the end of the American Civil War, tens of thousands of enslaved African men, women, and children were set free from the degradation of human slavery. In addition to the abolition of slavery, the end of the American Civil War resulted in life-altering changes and challenges in former slave states, including extending the right to vote to African American men.

After the American Civil War, during the era of Reconstruction between 1865 and 1877, as a condition of readmission into the Union, former slave states were required by Congress to create reconstructed governments, hold state conventions, and establish new constitutions; in Virginia, African American men were given the right to vote for and to be elected delegates to the convention, and 24 African American men were elected to the 1867–1868 Virginia Constitutional Convention, which created the Virginia Constitution of 1869.

The Virginia Constitution of 1869, the fifth of Virginia's seven state constitutions, was also known as the Underwood Constitution, named for Judge John C. Underwood, native New Yorker and federal judge in Virginia who served as the Convention's president. According to "Virginia Memory," a historical database of the Library of Virginia, "105,832 freedmen registered to vote in Virginia, and 93,145 voted in the election that began on October 22, 1867." Virginia Memory states that, during Reconstruction, "across the South about two thousand African Americans served in local and state government offices, including state legislatures and as members of Congress. About 100 African American men served in the General Assembly of Virginia between 1869 and 1890, and hundreds more in city and county government offices or as postal workers and in other federal jobs."

Across the South, legislation known as "Black Codes" was enacted to circumvent and thwart the newfound freedoms of former slaves; the reaction of Congress to these laws was the enactment of the Reconstruction Amendments to the United States Constitution, specifically the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects the rights of citizenship of freed men and women, and the Fifteenth Amendment, which prohibits states from denying citizens the right to vote due to race, color, or previous condition of servitude. After emancipation, these constitutional amendments laid the foundation by which many former enslaved Africans and their descendants were afforded equal rights as citizens under the United States Constitution, including the right to vote and run for elected public office.

Nearly a century would pass before the descendants of slaves would inherit and embrace the reality of the rights embodied in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments; however, the Reconstruction Amendments helped to transform the United States, according to President Abraham Lincoln, from a country that was "half slave and half free" to one in which the constitutionally guaranteed "blessings of liberty" would be extended to all the nation's citizens.

As a result of the resurgence of virulent racial discrimination that followed Reconstruction, Southern state governments enacted a system of laws known as "Jim Crow" laws, which established a rigidly segregated and legally sanctioned social system that subjugated and disenfranchised African Americans, again relegating them to second-class citizenship from 1877 until the mid-1960s.

During the era of Jim Crow, very few African Americans dared to brave the political and social realities of the time to run for public office or were able to register and vote under state constitutions and laws en force; from 1890 to 1968, African Americans were not represented in the Virginia General Assembly, the oldest continuous legislative body in the Western Hemisphere; in 1967, William Ferguson Reid, a Richmond doctor and community leader, became the first African American in the 20th Century elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.

Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868

William H. Andrews

William H. Andrews, born around 1839, may have been a schoolteacher in New Jersey before coming to Virginia. No evidence has come to light on his life prior to 22 October 1867, when he won a racially polarized election to represent Isle of Wight and Surry Counties in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. He also represented Surry in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871.
» Extended biography (pdf)

James D. Barrett

James D. Barrett was likely born a slave in Louisa County in 1833. He later moved to Fluvanna County, where he was a shoemaker, carpenter, and minister, Mr. Barrett represented Fluvanna in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. He labored for the welfare of African Americans. Mr. Barrett died in 1903 and is buried on the grounds of Thessalonia Baptist Church in Fluvanna, which he organized in 1868.
» Extended biography (pdf)

Thomas Bayne

Thomas Bayne, also known as Samuel Nixon, a dentist and minister, was born a slave in North Carolina ca. 1824. After living in Norfolk, by 1855 he had escaped slavery and fled to Massachusetts. In 1860, he was elected to the New Bedford City Council, becoming one of only a handful of African Americans to hold office in the United States prior to Reconstruction. He was a member of the delegation of Virginia African Americans who met with President Andrew Johnson in February 1866 to press demands for civil and political rights; was one of the few African Americans to testify before the Joint Congressional Committee on Reconstruction; was elected a vice president of the Union Republican State Convention in 1867; and was elected from Norfolk to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868, where he emerged as the most important African American leader and served on the Committee on the Executive Department of Government and the Committee on Rules and Regulations. He proposed legislation on school integration and equal citizenship and advanced the overhaul of the state's tax system. After Reconstruction, Thomas Bayne reduced his role in state partisan politics but remained active in local elections. He died in 1888.
» Extended biography (pdf)

James William. D. Bland

James William D. Bland, a carpenter, a cooper, and U.S. tax assessor, was born in Prince Edward County in 1844. His father was a free man and a cooper who purchased his wife to ensure their children's freedom. He represented Prince Edward and Appomattox Counties in the Virginia Constitutional Convention and Charlotte and Prince Edward Counties in the Virginia Senate from 1869 to 1870, where he served on the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice. At the Virginia Constitutional Convention, Mr. Bland proposed a resolution requesting military authorities to direct railroad companies to allow convention delegates to occupy first-class accommodations, which many railroads had refused to do. He also introduced a measure guaranteeing the right of "every person to enter any college, seminary, or other public institution of learning, as students, upon equal terms with any other, regardless of race, color, or previous condition." He was considered to be the voice of compromise and impartiality in an age of turmoil and partisanship. James Bland was one of about 60 persons killed in 1870 when the third floor of the State Capitol collapsed.
» Extended biography (pdf)

William Breedlove

William Breedlove, a blacksmith, was born free in Essex County about 1820. He represented Middlesex and Essex Counties in the Virginia Constitutional Convention, where he served on the Committee on Taxation and Finance. He was the leading spokesperson of his day in Essex County and served on the Tappahannock Town Council. He served postmaster there from 1870 until several months before his death in June 1871.
» Extended biography (pdf)

John Brown

John Brown, was born a slave in Southampton County ca. 1830. In 1867, Mr. Brown, then illiterate, dictated a letter to a local Freedmen's Bureau agent, hoping to reestablish contact with his two daughters in Mississippi, who had been sold before the Civil War. He represented Southampton County in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868 and was a member of the Committee on the Judiciary. He voted regularly with the Radicals to reform and democratize the Constitution of Virginia to protect the rights of freed people. He died sometime after the census enumeration of his district on June 19, 1900.
» Extended biography (pdf)

David Canada

David Canada, was born a slave, probably in Halifax County, and most likely worked as a stone mason. Little is known about him until October 22, 1867, when the county's voters elected him a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. More than 2,700 African Americans voted, while fewer than 1,000 whites cast ballots. He was the only black candidate to receive votes in every precinct, though he probably received no more than a few votes from whites. Mr. Canada campaigned for the new document's ratification in the face of intensifying interracial tension. He ran for a House of Delegate seat in 1869 but was defeated and disappeared from the historical record.
» Extended biography (pdf)

James B. Carter

James B. Carter was born a slave of likely mixed race ancestry probably in Chesterfield around 1816. A bootmaker and shoemaker, James Carter represented Chesterfield and Powhatan Counties in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. He introduced a resolution at the convention directing the General Assembly to pass a law requiring students to attend school at least three months each year. Mr. Carter did not seek office after the convention. His funeral was held at African Baptist Church (later First Baptist Church, South Richmond) in Manchester in 1870.
» Extended biography (pdf)

Joseph Cox

Joseph Cox, was born in the mid-1830s in Powhatan County. Mr. Cox was a blacksmith who also worked as a bartender, tobacco factory worker, and day laborer, and he operated a small store. In 1867, he was president of the Union Aid Society, one of Richmond's largest African American organizations, and was a delegate to the state Republican convention. Mr. Cox represented Richmond in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. He was vice president of the Richmond chapter of the Colored National Labor Union in 1870, and two years later he helped lead the successful campaign to elect African Americans to the city council. He died in Manchester in 1880 and was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, in the section of Chesterfield County that in 1914 became part of Richmond; a reported three thousand people marched in his funeral.
» Extended biography (pdf)

Willis A. Hodges

Willis A. Hodges was born to a well-to-do free Virginia family in 1815. Mr. Hodges was a minister and farmer who was actively involved in the abolitionist and black suffrage movements in New York. He was a cofounder of the Ram's Horn in 1847, a short-lived African American newspaper. Elected to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868 from Princess Anne County, Mr. Hodges became a spokesman for the interests of poor African Americans, urging that public hunting and fishing areas should be set aside since "many poor people depend on hunting and fishing." He died in the North in 1890 while on a fund-raising trip for a home for elderly African Americans in Norfolk. (Photo credit: Bells Mill Historical Research and Restoration Society, Inc., Chesapeake, VA.)

Willis A. Hodges
Joseph R. Holmes

Joseph R. Holmes, a native of Virginia, was a shoemaker and farmer who represented Charlotte and Halifax Counties at the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. He ran for a seat in the Senate of Virginia, but was killed in 1892.

Peter K. Jones

Peter K. Jones, a native of Petersburg, was born in 1838. He worked as a shoemaker and carpenter. Mr. Jones was a delegate to the 1865 Virginia Black Convention and represented Greensville and Sussex Counties at the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. He served in the House of Delegates, representing Greensville County from 1869 to 1877.

Peter K. Jones
Samuel F. Kelso

Samuel F. Kelso, a native of Virginia, was born in 1827 and worked as a teacher. Mr. Kelso represented Campbell County at the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868.

Lewis Lindsey

Lewis Lindsey, a musician and laborer, was born in Caroline County in 1833. After the war, he worked in the Tredegar ironworks, was a janitor at the Richmond custom house, and led a brass band. Mr. Lindsey was employed as a speaker by the Republican Congressional Committee in 1867 and was a delegate in that year to the Republican state convention from Richmond. He represented the city of Richmond in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868.

Peter G. Morgan

Peter G. Morgan, born a slave in Nottoway County of African, Indian, and white ancestry in 1817, was a storekeeper and shoemaker. He represented Petersburg in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868 and in the House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871. He served on the city council from 1872 to 1874 and was a member of the Petersburg school board. Mr. Morgan died in Lawrenceville in 1909.

William P. Mosely

William P. Mosely, a native of Virginia, was born in 1819 as a house servant and operated a freight boat as a slave. He obtained his freedom before the Civil War and became well educated. Mr. Mosely was a delegate to the Virginia Black Convention of 1865, represented Goochland County in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868, and represented Fluvanna, Goochland, and Powhatan Counties in the Senate of Virginia from 1869 to 1871. He ran for Congress as a Republican in 1880 but was defeated by the Readjuster candidate.

Francis "Frank" Moss

Francis "Frank" Moss was a farmer and minister who was born free in 1825 in Buckingham County. Mr. Moss represented Buckingham County in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868, the counties of Appomattox and Buckingham in the Senate of Virginia from 1869 to 1871, and Buckingham County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1874 to 1875.

Edward Nelson

Edward Nelson, a native of Virginia, represented Charlotte County at the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868.

Daniel M. Norton

Daniel M. Norton was born a slave in Virginia in 1840 and escaped to the North with his brother Robert around 1850. He learned medicine in Troy, New York, and was licensed as a physician. He returned to Virginia in 1864 and became one of Hampton's most important political leaders. He was elected in December 1865 to represent African Americans on a Freedmen's Bureau Court. Early in 1866, he was sent as a delegate of Hampton area African Americans to testify before the Joint Congressional Committee on Reconstruction. Daniel Norton represented James City and York Counties in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868, and served in the Senate of Virginia from 1871 to 1873 and 1877 to 1879 from the district of Charles City, James City, Elizabeth City, York, and Warwick Counties, and from 1879 to 1887 from the district of Elizabeth City, Warwick, York, James City, Charles City, New Kent, and King William Counties. Mr. Norton built an effective political machine in Hampton, and for 40 years he was a justice of the peace in York County; he was appointed collector of customs in Newport News in 1862 and served on the board of visitors of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (now Virginia State University). He ran unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for Congress in 1869. The date of his birth is unknown; according to descendants researching the family, Dr. Norton died in November 1918 in Yorktown.

John Robinson

John Robinson, born in 1822, was a lawyer and graduate of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University). He represented Cumberland County in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. In the Senate of Virginia from 1869 to 1871 he represented the district of Cumberland, Amelia, and Nottoway Counties, and from 1871 to 1873 he represented the district of Amelia, Cumberland, and Prince Edward Counties. He also worked as a mail carrier and operated a saloon and general store during the 1870s. The date of his death is not known.

James T.S. Taylor

James T. S. Taylor was born in 1840 in Clarke County and purchased his freedom before the Civil War. He was educated as a youth, served as a commissary clerk for the Union Army during the Civil War, and was nominated to represent Albemarle County in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. Mr. Taylor ran unsuccessfully for the Virginia House of Delegates in 1869.

George Teamoh

George Teamoh, born a slave in Portsmouth in 1818, was a ship's carpenter, caulker, and tailor, among other jobs. He was a delegate to the Virginia Black Convention of 1865 and a Union League organizer. He served in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868 from Norfolk County and Portsmouth. He wrote that "agricultural degrees and brickyard diplomas" were poor preparation for the complex proceedings. However, he did support the disenfranchisement of former Confederates. Mr. Teamoh served in the Senate of Virginia from Norfolk County and Portsmouth from 1869 to 1871, and, as a member of the Senate, he supported the formation of a biracial labor union at the U.S. Navy yard in Norfolk. Later, he was denied re-nomination to the Senate of Virginia in 1871, because of party factionalism, and ran unsuccessfully for the Virginia House of Delegates. He was a strong advocate of African American education. He wrote autobiographical notes that were published in 1990 under the title, God Made Man; Man Made the Slave: The Autobiography of George Teamoh.

Burwell Toler

Burwell Toler, a native of Virginia, represented Hanover and Henrico Counties in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. A Baptist minister, he organized two churches in Hanover County and preached at many others.

John Watson

John Watson was born in Mecklenburg County, which he represented in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868 and in the House of Delegates from 1869 until his death in 1870. Mr. Watson was active in promoting schools and churches in the county.

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Virginia House of Delegates

William H. Andrews

William H. Andrews, born around 1839, may have been a schoolteacher in New Jersey before coming to Virginia. No evidence has come to light on his life prior to 22 October 1867, when he won a racially polarized election to represent Isle of Wight and Surry Counties in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. He also represented Surry in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871.
» Extended biography (pdf)

William Horace Ash

William Horace Ash, born in slavery in 1859 in Loudoun County to William H. and Martha A. Ash, preferred to call himself Horace Ash of Leesburg. He was educated at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) and graduated in 1882. He relocated to Nottoway County, where he taught at a school for African American girls. He served as a county delegate to the Republican state party convention in 1884; three years later, he was nominated for the Virginia House of Delegates for the district comprising Amelia and Nottoway Counties. He served in the House of Delegates from 1887 to 1888 and was a member of the standing Committees on Propositions and Grievances and on Printing. He studied law and identified himself as a lawyer, but he is not known to have practiced law; he remained concerned with education. He also taught agriculture at Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute, later named Virginia State University. Mr. Ash died in 1908.
» Extended biography (pdf)

Britton Baskerville, Jr.

Britton Baskerville, Jr., born a slave in Mecklenburg County in 1863, was the eldest of five sons of Britton and Sallie Baskervill. He was educated at Boydton Academic and Bible Institute, in Mecklenburg County, and at Wayland Institute in Washington, D.C. He taught school in the Flat Creek District of Mecklenburg County. He served as the Sunday school superintendent at Bloom Hill Baptist Church. Mr. Baskervill represented Mecklenburg County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1887 to 1888, where he served on the House Committees on Privileges and Elections and the Chesapeake and its Tributaries. He never married and died early of tuberculosis in 1892.
» Extended biography (pdf)

Edward David Bland

Edward David Bland was born a slave probably in Dinwiddie County in 1848. Mr. Bland, the son of Frederick Bland, a shoemaker and minister, came to Petersburg following the American Civil War and attended night school. About 1874 he moved to City Point, in Prince George County, where he worked as a shoemaker. Mr. Bland represented Prince George and Surry Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1879 to 1884, where he served three terms and was a member of the House Committees on Executive Expenditures, on Schools and Colleges, on Agriculture and Mining, on Claims, Retrenchment and Economy, on Propositions and Grievances, on Enrolled Bills, and on Officers and Offices at the Capitol. Mr. Bland died in 1927 and is interred at the People's Memorial Cemetery in Petersburg.
» Extended biography (pdf)

Phillip S. Bolling

Phillip S. Bolling, a farmer and brick mason, was born a slave in Buckingham County around 1849 to Samuel P. and Ellen Munford Bolling. His father owned land in Farmville and Lynchburg, and Phillip Bolling acquired the Lynchburg property from his father in 1872. He worked for his father's brickyard in Farmville, and they were both listed as brick masons in the 1880 census. He became very interested in politics and ran for the Virginia House of Delegates as a Readjuster in 1883. On election day, Democrats charged that Mr. Bolling was a Prince Edward resident and ineligible to represent Buckingham and Cumberland Counties. Voters ignored the warnings. Winning the election by 538 votes and certified by the local board of elections to represent Buckingham and Cumberland Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates, he was appointed to the House Committees on Banks, Currency, and Commerce; on Officers and Offices at the Capitol; and on Rules. The Democrats again challenged his election, when the Democratic majority of the Committee of Privileges and Elections rejected evidence that Bolling had been registered to vote in Cumberland County, had voted there from 1881 to 1883, and had served as a juror there as recently as June 1883. Because he had been working at a brick kiln in Prince Edward County before the election, the committee ruled that he was not a resident of Cumberland and was ineligible to represent the district in the House of Delegates. He was later elected to the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors. Because their names were similar and some documents confused he and his father, who served in the House of Delegates from 1885 to 1887, the election of Phillip Bolling to the House of Delegates and his brief service there have not been included in references on African Americans in Virginia politics late in the nineteenth century. He died on April 18, 1892, in Petersburg.

Samuel P. Bolling

Samuel P. Bolling, a farmer, brick mason, and brick manufacturer, and the son of Olive Bolling, was born into slavery in Cumberland County in 1819. He was trained as a skilled mechanic, and likely purchased his freedom shortly before the American Civil War. After the war he also purchased land and started a brickyard, which employed many individuals who helped construct many of the brick buildings in Farmville and the surrounding countryside. He eventually amassed more than 1,000 acres in Cumberland County. He agreed with those in the General Assembly who proposed to scale down the principal and interest to be paid on the antebellum debt in order to pay for new public schools and other public projects. Mr. Bolling served in the Virginia House of Delegates, representing Cumberland and Buckingham Counties, from 1885 to 1887, a seat his son previously held. He was a member of the following House Committees: Claims; Manufactures and Mechanical Arts; and Retrenchment and Economy. He was active in the Mount Nebo Baptist Church in Buckingham County as a deacon, trustee, and treasurer. Mr. Bolling died in 1900.

Tazewell Branch

Tazewell Branch was a shoemaker, storekeeper, and assistant assessor of internal revenue. The son of Richard Branch and Mary Hays, Mr. Branch was born a slave in 1828 near the town of Farmville in Prince Edward County and served as a house servant. He learned to read and write as well as the skill of shoemaking during slavery. In 1868 and 1869 he was one of the trustees who purchased land for what was to become Beulah African Methodist Episcopal Church. By 1873 he owned property in Farmville and sat on the town council. His children included Clement Tazewell Branch, who received his M.D. from Howard University in 1900 and settled in Camden, New Jersey, to become the first African American to serve on the city's school board, and Mary Elizabeth Branch, who attended Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, now Virginia State University, and taught there for twenty years. Branch Hall is named in her honor. In 1930, she became president of Tillotson College in Austin, Texas. Tazewell Branch was said to have refused pay for service in party campaigns and quit politics when he observed politicians becoming corrupt. He represented Prince Edward County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1874 to 1877. He died in New Jersey on April 30, 1925, and was buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Farmville.
» Extended biography (pdf)

William Henry Brisby

William Henry Brisby was born free in New Kent County in 1836 to Roger Lewis, an African American, and Marinda Brisby, who was of Pamunkey Indian origins. Prior to the Civil War he established himself as a blacksmith. He worked on the construction of the Richmond and York River Railroad. He later testified that the slave regime's withholding of education made him a Unionist, and as late as 1860 he signed with his mark. By 1863, however, he could sign his name and later obtained books related to the law. Mr. Brisby represented New Kent County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871, serving on the Officers and Offices at the Capitol Committee. A landowner, he later served on the New Kent Board of Supervisors from 1871 to at least 1881 and was a justice of the peace from 1870 until 1910. A fisherman as well, Mr. Brisby helped slaves and escaped Union prisoners of war slip out of Richmond during the American Civil War, stowing them away in his cargo transports. Mr. Brisby died in 1916.
» Extended biography (pdf)

Goodman Brown

Goodman Brown was born free in Surry County in 1840, a member of three generations of free men. His father was a landowner and at the age of 22 Goodman Brown enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a cabin boy aboard the USS Maratanza during the American Civil War. He was discharged December 20, 1864. A farmer, he attended night school and was later instructed by his wife, one of the first African American school teachers in Surry County. He represented Prince George and Surry Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1887 to 1888, where he served on the House Immigration and the Retrenchment and Economy Committees. He died July 4, 1929, in Surry County and is buried near Bacon's Castle.
» Extended biography (pdf)

Peter Jacob Carter

the son of Jacob and Peggie Carter, was born in 1845 in the town of Eastville in Northampton County. He worked as a house servant while in slavery; however, he ran away during the American Civil War and enlisted on October 30, 1863, in Company B of the 10th Regiment United States Colored Infantry. He mustered out on May 17, 1866. After the war, Carter was educated at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, now Hampton University. He became an important figure in Republican politics on Virginia's Eastern Shore and served in the Virginia House of Delegates from Northampton County from 1871 to 1879, one of the longest tenures among the 19th century African American members of the General Assembly. He introduced measures concerning taxes on oysters, the boundaries of election precincts, correcting prisoner abuse, improving the care of black deaf-mutes, and providing housing for the elderly and poor in Richmond. A large landowner, he also introduced bills to combat the exclusion of African Americans from jury service and to improve the treatment of prisoners and abolish the whipping post as a punishment for crime. He was in the delegation from the General Assembly that met with President Ulysses S. Grant to support what became the Civil Rights Act of 1875. He served on the following House Committees: Agriculture and Mining, Retrenchment and Economy, Claims, and Militia and Police. Later, Mr. Carter was a doorkeeper of the Senate of Virginia from 1881 to 1882. He was appointed by the General Assembly to the Board of Visitors of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, now Virginia State University. His son studied medicine at Howard University and became a physician at the veterans' hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama. Peter Jacob Carter died in 1886.
» Extended biography (pdf)

Peter Jacob Carter
Matt Clark

Matt Clark, a farmer, was born a slave in 1844 to Mathew and Chaney Clarke. He became a landowner in Halifax County. In the General Assembly, he often signed his name simply "Matt Clark," without the "e." He represented Halifax County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1874 to 1875 and served on the House Committee on Asylums and Prisons. He introduced a resolution supporting the improvement of living conditions at the Central Lunatic Asylum, now Central State Hospital, in Petersburg and agreed to the refinancing of the state war debt at a lower interest rate or repudiating a portion of the debt and using the remaining revenue to support the new public school system and other public programs.
» Extended biography (pdf)

George William Cole

George William Cole, a teacher and farmer, was born free in Athens, Georgia, in the late 1840s to William and Martha Cole. Inspired by his parents and perhaps by Emancipation and Reconstruction, he developed a desire for education and self-improvement. He entered Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, now Hampton University, in 1872. By 1879, Mr. Cole had made his way to Essex County, married Edith Banks, and emerged as the Republican candidate for the county seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. He won election to the House seat to represent Essex County from 1879 to 1880. After the session began on December 3, 1879, Mr. Cole joined 15 other Republicans, of whom 10 were African Americans, to form a wedge between a nearly equal number of Funders and Readjusters that resulted in a new slate of House leaders, among them a few African American office holders, to replace Confederate veterans in insignificant functions. Mr. Cole served as a member of the House Committee on Labor and the Poor. During his tenure, he did not introduce any major legislation; however, he supported a measure that would lower taxes on malt liquor, spirits, and wine vendors and supported the constitutional amendment to repeal the poll tax. Little is known about Mr. Cole after his term in the Virginia General Assembly. The date of his death is unknown.
» Extended biography (pdf)

Asa Coleman

Asa Coleman was born a slave probably in North Carolina in the early 1830s. His parents may have been Matthew and Frances Coleman. He moved to Halifax County by 1869. Before the American Civil War, he may have lived in Louisiana. He had a limited education, but he was well versed in politics. In 1872 Mr. Coleman bought at public auction 150 acres of land, for which he paid $982.50. The county approved the deed and conveyed it to him three years later. He represented Halifax County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1871 to 1873, serving three sessions. He was a member of the House Committee on Asylums and Prisons and was with the General Assembly delegation that met with President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 to support what became the Civil Rights Act of 1875. A farmer and carpenter, Mr. Coleman is believed to have died sometime after February 24, 1893.
» Extended biography (pdf)

Johnson Collins

Johnson Collins, a native of Virginia, was born probably into slavery in August 1847. In 1870, he lived with his family in Brunswick County and earned his living as a laborer. In November 1879, he won a three-way race for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, representing Brunswick County from 1879 to 1880. He served as a member of the House Committees on Federal Relations and Resolutions and on Public Property. He supported legislation to eliminate the poll tax, reduce the tax on malt, liquor, spirits, and wine vendors, and reduce the principal of the public debt and refinance the interest. After his service in the Virginia General Assembly, Mr. Collins relocated to Washington, D.C., with his family, where he worked as a watchman for about 20 years. Mr. Collins died on November 3, 1906, and is buried in Columbian Harmony Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
» Extended biography (pdf)

Aaron Commodore

Aaron Commodore was born in 1819 or 1820 as a slave probably in Essex County. A shoemaker, he purchased a home and land in Tappahannock before he became a member of the General Assembly. He was an influential community leader and represented Essex County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1875 to 1877, where he served on the House Militia and Police Committee. He was a member of First Baptist Church, Tappahannock. Mr. Commodore died in June 1892.
» Extended biography (pdf)

Miles Connor

Miles Connor was a farmer and minister born a slave probably in Norfolk County in the early 1830s to parents Richard and Matilda Connor. He served as a valet and house servant. He was educated and could read and write. After emancipation, Mr. Connor emerged as a leader among the freedmen of Norfolk County, assisting in the organizing of churches and fraternal societies. He represented Norfolk County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1875 to 1877, serving on the House Militia and Police Committee. After leaving the General Assembly, he served as a justice of the peace from 1887 to 1891 in Norfolk County. His son Miles Washington Connor became the first president of Coppin State Teachers College (later Coppin State University) in Baltimore, Maryland. Miles Connor died in June 1893 and his funeral was held at Churchland Grove Baptist Church.
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Henry Cox

Henry Cox was born in Powhatan County in 1832, though it is unclear if he was enslaved or free. A shoemaker, he became a landowner early, purchasing 37 acres in 1871. He represented Chesterfield and Powhatan Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871 and Powhatan County from 1871 to 1877, serving on the Committees on Officers and Offices at the Capitol, on Labor and the Poor, and on Militia and Police. Mr. Cox was with the delegation that in 1872 met with President Ulysses S. Grant to get his support for what became the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Mr. Cox died sometime after 1910, when he is listed in a Washington, D.C. city directory.
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Isaac Dabbs

Isaac Dabbs, a laborer, was born a slave probably late in the 1840s in Charlotte County to George and Frankie Dabbs. In the 1870 census he was reported as not being able to read nor write. A Radical Republican, he represented Charlotte County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1875 to 1877. He died after the census enumeration of his ward in April 1910.
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McDowell Delaney

McDowell Delaney was a bricklayer, teacher, minister, and mason. He was born free in Amelia County in 1844 to parents Edmund and Sally Hughes Delaney. His father was a miller and teacher. Mr. Delaney attended the school in which his father taught and he later became a teacher and pastor for several churches and possibly organized a Baptist Association. Mr. Delaney represented Amelia County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1871 to 1873. He reportedly died in 1929.

Amos A. Dodson

Amos A. Dodson was born a slave in Mecklenburg County in 1856. He worked as a farmer, deputy collector with the Internal Revenue Service, and teacher. The son of a blacksmith, Mr. Dodson attended school. He was a born orator and was active in politics. He represented Mecklenburg County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1883 to 1884. He moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he became a partner in an undertaking business and through this owned a coffin manufactory. He died there in 1888.

Jesse Dungee

Jesse Dungee was born free about 1819 in King William County to Joseph and Betsy Collins Dungee of African American, white, and Native American ancestry. A shoemaker, Mr. Dungee derived his income from making shoes as well as leeching, a custom of the day. He owned real estate property and, after the American Civil War, donated land and lumber for a school, as well as $100 toward the erection of a church. He represented King William County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1871 to 1873.

Jesse Dungee
Shed Dungee

Shed Dungee was born into slavery about 1831 in Cumberland County. Mr. Dungee earned a living as a shoemaker, farmer, and preacher. He learned the trade of shoemaking and attended a school for freedmen after the American Civil War. He owned and operated a small farm and promoted the development of schools and the founding of churches. He represented Cumberland and Buckingham Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1879 to 1882. He died by the census enumeration of 1900.

Isaac Edmundson

Isaac Edmundson, was born into slavery in Halifax County about April 1840 and became a farmer and barber after freedom. He represented Halifax County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871 and was a respected resident of the county seat until his death in 1927.

Ballard Trent Edwards

Ballard Trent Edwards, a bricklayer, plasterer, and contractor, was born free in Manchester (now part of Richmond) in 1828 of mixed-race ancestry. His mother was a teacher, and he opened a school for freedmen in Manchester after the American Civil War. He held office as overseer of the poor in Chesterfield County, and as a magistrate after Manchester became a city in 1874. He represented Chesterfield and Powhatan Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871, where he proposed a measure banning racial discrimination by railroad and steamboat companies. A leader in the First Baptist Church, Manchester (later First Baptist Church of South Richmond), Mr. Edwards was also active in the Masons. He died in 1881.

Joseph P. Evans

Joseph P. Evans was born a slave in 1835 in Dinwiddie County and purchased his freedom in 1859. During Reconstruction, he was a prominent leader of Petersburg's African American community, serving as a delegate to the Republican state convention of 1867, and in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1871 to 1873, representing Petersburg. Mr. Evans also represented Petersburg in the Senate of Virginia from 1874 to 1875. While a member of the General Assembly, Mr. Evans backed legislation to require compulsory education and guarantee African Americans the right to serve on grand juries when one of the litigants was an African American. He also held positions as a letter carrier and as an inspector at the Petersburg customhouse. He was elected president of a black labor convention in Richmond in 1875, where he urged African Americans to organize themselves independently in politics and as workers. He ran unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for Congress in 1884. His son, William W. Evans, represented Petersburg in the General Assembly from 1887 to 1888. Joseph P. Evans died in 1889

Joseph P. Evans
William Dennis Evans

William Dennis Evans was born free in Prince Edward County in 1831 and part of an extended family who had been landowners since before 1800. Mr. Evans learned the trade of painting and paperhanging as an apprentice to a master before the American Civil War. He attended a night school taught by northern missionaries and later became interested in politics. Mr. Evans purchased property in Farmville, was a trustee for the First Baptist Church, and sat on the town council. He received contracts for the interior decoration of buildings in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. William D. Evans represented Prince Edward County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1877 to 1880. He died in 1900.

William W. Evans

William W. Evans was born a slave ca. 1860 in Dinwiddie County. The son of Joseph P. and Josephine Evans, William Evans attended school in Petersburg and worked as a letter carrier and possibly a barber early in his career. By 1887 he had become editor of a Republican newspaper that advocated improvements in the political and material lives of African Americans. He obtained a law license in 1888. He represented Petersburg in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1887 to 1888. He died in 1892.

William Faulcon

William Faulcon was born in 1841 in Surry County, probably into slavery, and likely of mixed-race ancestry. He received some education and learned to read and write. He was a blacksmith who operated a shop at Surry Court House. He purchased land and represented Prince George and Surry Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1885 to 1887.

George Fayerman

George Fayerman, a storekeeper, was born free about 1830 to George and Phoebe Fayerman. His father may have fled from Haiti to Louisiana during the slave insurrection led by Touissant l'Overture. Though he claimed Louisiana as his birthplace and probably had Haitian ancestry, evidence suggests he may have been born in Jamaica. Mr. Fayerman was literate in both French and English. After the American Civil War, he came to Petersburg where he established a grocery store, helped organize the Republican Party in the city, and attended the state Republican convention in 1868. Mr. Fayerman served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871, where he sponsored civil rights legislation. He served as a member of the Petersburg City Council from 1874 to 1875. He died in 1890.

James Apostle Fields

James Apostle Fields was born a slave in Hanover County in 1844. He was the son of a shoemaker and became a teacher and lawyer. As a young man, he served as caretaker of the horses used by lawyers attending court at the Hanover Court House, and he spent considerable time in court observing the proceedings, which very likely inspired him to become a lawyer and a commonwealth's attorney. Mr. Fields became a refugee during the American Civil War. He graduated from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, now Hampton University, in 1871 as a member of the institution's first graduating class. He also attended Howard University, graduating in 1882 with a law degree. Mr. Fields taught school before and after law school, and was later elected doorkeeper of the Virginia House of Delegates for the 1879–1880 session. He was eminently successful as a lawyer. Mr. Fields represented Elizabeth City, James City, Warwick, and York Counties and the city of Williamsburg in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1889 to 1890. He died in 1903.

Alexander Quincy Franklin

Alexander Quincy Franklin, the son of Benjamin and Martha Franklin, was born about 1851 in Henrico County. His father was born a slave but purchased his freedom from income earned as a brick mason. Alexander Franklin was educated and was the first African American to teach in Charles City County, where he taught two years. He educated students for 36 years in Powhatan County. He purchased land and devoted his life to leadership, schools, and church. He represented Charles City County and New Kent County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1889 to 1890, and also served as the commissioner of revenue. Mr. Franklin died in 1923.

John Freeman

John Freeman was likely born into slavery. In 1871 he was living in Halifax County, which he represented in the House of Delegates for the three sessions that met between 1871 and 1873. During his term he sat on the Committee on Public Property. In 1872 he was a member of the Republican Party's state central committee. The dates of his birth and death are not known.

William Gilliam

William Gilliam was born free in 1841 in Prince George County of African, white, and Native American ancestry. He owned his own farm. Mr. Gilliam represented his native county in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1871 to 1875, where he sought to prohibit discrimination in railroad and steamboat travel. He gave an eloquent speech in 1873 against the use of the whipping post as a punishment for crime. Mr. Gilliam died in New York City in 1893.

William Gilliam
James P. Goodwyn

James P. Goodwyn was born in Petersburg and married there during the American Civil War. He represented his native city in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1874 to 1875.

Armistead Green

Armistead Green, a grocer and mortician, was born a slave in 1841 in Petersburg. His parents were Amos and Gracie Green. He was one of several prosperous African American grocers in the area. He purchased land in Petersburg before his election to the General Assembly, where he represented his native city in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1881 to 1884. For a number of years he served as a deacon in the First Baptist Church in Petersburg. Mr. Green died in 1893.

Robert G. Griffin

Robert G. Griffin represented James City, Elizabeth City, Warwick, and York Counties and the city of Williamsburg in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1883 to 1884.

Nathaniel M. Grigg

Nathaniel M. Grigg was born a slave in 1857 in Farmville to Matthew and Nicy Washington. He attended night school and was a tobacco factory worker but was soon discharged for making political speeches. He entered politics and was appointed deputy collector of internal revenue. He represented Prince Edward County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1883 to 1884 and Amelia, Cumberland, and Prince Edward Counties in the Senate of Virginia from 1887 through 1890. Later, he was employed by the Bureau of Printing and Engraving in Washington, D.C. After the failure of the Republican Party to win reelection in the presidential election of 1892, Mr. Grigg went to work as a jeweler for the Wanamaker Company in Philadelphia. He died in 1919.

Ross Hamilton

Ross Hamilton was born a slave in Mecklenburg County in 1838 or 1839. He earned a living as a carpenter and storekeeper. He represented Mecklenburg County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1870 to 1882. He was elected to the House again in 1889, but his election was successfully contested and overturned. Mr. Hamilton was considered one of the legislature's "parliamentary authorities." He spent the last part of his life working for the federal government in Washington, D.C., where he died. He married twice and is buried on the grounds of Boydton Institute.

Ross Hamilton
Alfred W. Harris

Alfred W. Harris, a lawyer and the son of Henry Harris, was born free in Fairfax County in 1854. The family traced ancestors back to those living in Fairfax County in 1776. He attended the public schools in Alexandria, studied law privately with African American attorney George W. Mitchell, and enrolled in and graduated from Howard University in 1881. He began the practice of law in Petersburg in 1882. Alfred Harris owned 12.5 acres of land in Dinwiddie County. He was regarded as one of the ablest debaters in the General Assembly. He represented Dinwiddie County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1881 to 1888 and served on the City Council of Alexandria. Mr. Harris died in 1920.

H. Clay Harris

H. Clay Harris was not a native of Virginia, and the date of his birth is unknown. He came to Halifax County from Ohio shortly after the American Civil War and took an active role in politics. He was well educated and purchased 24 acres of land. He represented Halifax County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1874 to 1875.

Henry C. Hill

Henry C. Hill was born a free man in Amelia County, the son of Henry Hill. The date of his birth is unknown. He represented his native county in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1874 to 1875, and was a justice of the peace. Mr. Hill became a landowner after his term in office.

Charles E. Hodges

Charles E. Hodges was born in 1819 to well-to-do African American Virginians. His family moved to Brooklyn, New York, in the 1830s after his brother William was accused of forging free papers for slaves, leading to the persecution of his father. Mr. Hodges was a minister. He became involved in the abolition movement and the struggle for African American suffrage in New York State and was a delegate to the National Black Convention in Philadelphia in 1855. Returning to Virginia after the American Civil War, he served in the Virginia House of Delegates, representing Norfolk County and Portsmouth from 1869 to 1871. He failed to win reelection after his term. Three of his brothers were also involved in Reconstruction politics. Charles Hodges died in 1910. (Photo credit: Bells Mill Historical Research and Restoration Society, Inc., Chesapeake, VA.)

Charles E Hodges
John Q. Hodges

John Q. Hodges, the brother of office holders Charles, William, and Willis Hodges, was born to a prosperous Virginia free African American family that was forced to leave the state for Brooklyn, New York, in the 1830s after his brother was accused of aiding fugitive slaves. The date of his birth is unknown. Mr. Hodges represented Princess Anne County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871 but failed to win reelection.

Henry Johnson

Henry Johnson was born a slave in Amelia County in 1842. His parents were David and Louisa Johnson. During slavery, he was taught to read by a white man to whom he gave food in exchange for his lessons. After slavery, he continued his informal education at the home of James Ferguson, a Richmond native who was the first African American school teacher in Princess Anne County. Mr. Johnson was a shoemaker and teacher. He purchased land in Princess Anne County shortly after Emancipation. He represented Nottoway and Amelia Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1889 to 1890. He died in 1922.

Benjamin F. Jones

Benjamin F. Jones, a farm manager, was born in 1834 or 1835. The slave overseer on his master's plantation before the American Civil War, Mr. Jones was sent to the North for education in 1865 by his former owner and was given 35 acres of land. He represented King William County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871, where he introduced legislation to make gambling a felony. According to the U.S. Census in 1870, he owned $600 in real estate. Mr. Jones died in 1880.

Joseph R. Jones

James R. Jones was a storekeeper and postmaster. His date of birth and death are unknown. Mr. Jones served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1885 to 1887, representing Mecklenburg County. He also served in the Senate of Virginia from 1876 to 1877 and from 1881 to 1883 representing Charlotte and Mecklenburg Counties.

Peter K. Jones

Peter K. Jones, a native of Petersburg, was born in 1838. He worked as a shoemaker and carpenter. Mr. Jones was a delegate to the 1865 Virginia Black Convention and represented Greensville and Sussex Counties at the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates, representing Greensville County from 1869 to 1877.

Peter K. Jones
Robert G. W. Jones

Robert G. W. Jones, farmer, mail carrier, and music teacher, was born free in 1827 in Henrico County. He moved to Charles City County before 1860, where he acquired considerable landholdings. He purchased a combined 601 acres in three land acquisitions. He organized the first music classes in Charles City County and represented the county in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871. It is believed that Mr. Jones died in 1900.

Rufus S. Jones

Rufus S. Jones, a storekeeper, was born free in 1835 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to William and Louisa Jones. He came to Warwick County at the end of the American Civil War. In the U.S. Census in 1870, Mr. Jones was listed as a teacher who owned no property, but he subsequently became a grocer, purchased a lot in Hampton in 1871, and engaged in a number of real estate transactions. He represented Elizabeth City and Warwick Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1871 to 1875.

Rufus S. Jones
William H. Jordan

William H. Jordan was born a slave in 1860 in Petersburg, the son of Armistead Jordan, a contractor. Mr. Jordan received some education and earned a living as a barber, lawyer, and railway mail carrier. In 1884, before entering the General Assembly, he bought a house and lot in his native city but spent the later part of his life in the North. He represented Petersburg in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1885 to 1887 and also served on the Petersburg City Council.

Alexander G. Lee

Alexander G. Lee was born a slave in Portsmouth, the son of Richard R. and Lydia Ann Butler. The date of his birth is not known. He attended schools in Portsmouth and engaged in several real estate transactions during his career in Portsmouth. Mr. Lee later moved to Hampton and represented Elizabeth City and Warwick Counties in the House of Delegates from 1877 to 1879. He was a lighthouse keeper and boatman.

Neverson Lewis

Neverson Lewis, a farmer, was born a slave in Powhatan County. The date of his birth is unknown. Although Mr. Lewis had little education, he had a reputation for common sense and honesty in politics. He represented Chesterfield and Powhatan Counties and the city of Manchester in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1879 to 1882.

James F. Lipscomb

James F. Lipscomb, a farmer and merchant, was born free in Cumberland County in 1830 to a family whose freedom was first granted in 1818. Although he was born in poverty, he learned to read and write and rose by his own efforts from the position of a hack driver in Richmond to the owner of a canal boat on the James River, and finally to the ownership of three farms in Cumberland totaling 510 acres. He built a 12-room house and eight smaller dwellings, which he rented out to his farm tenants. After ending his eight-year career in the General Assembly, Mr. Lipscomb opened a general country store, which was later operated by his grandson. He represented Cumberland County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1877. Mr. Lipscomb died in 1893.

William P. Lucas

William P. Lucas, who was born free in Prince William County in 1843, the son of Jerry and Fanny Lucas, was a teacher and postal clerk. In 1874, he purchased 68 acres of land in Louisa County for &350. Before his election to the General Assembly, he taught school. Mr. Lucas represented Louisa C$unty in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1874 to 1875.

John W. B. Matthews

John W. B. Matthews was born in 1840 to a prosperous free African American family, and was educated in Petersburg. His grandmother, mother, and Matthews owned slaves before the American Civil War. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1871 to 1873, representing Petersburg. He also served as a deputy customs collector. He later moved to Massachusetts.

John W. B. Matthews
J. B. Miller, Jr.

J. B. Miller, Jr., a teacher, was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1869 as a Radical Republican to represent Goochland County from 1869 to 1871. Little is yet known about Mr. Miller's life.

Peter G. Morgan

Peter G. Morgan, born a slave of African, Native American, and white ancestry in 1817, in Nottoway County, was a storekeeper and shoemaker. He represented Petersburg in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868 and in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871. He served on the Petersburg City Council from 1872 to 1874 and was a member of the city's school board. Mr. Morgan died in Lawrenceville in 1909.

Francis "Frank" Moss

Francis "Frank" Moss, a farmer and minister, was born free in 1825 in Buckingham County. Mr. Moss represented Buckingham County in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868, the counties of Appomattox and Buckingham in the Senate of Virginia from 1869 to 1871, and Buckingham County in the Virginia House of Delegates during the 1874–1875 Session.

Armistead S. Nickens

Armistead S. Nickens, a miller and farmer, was born free in 1836 in Lancaster County, the son of Armistead and Polly Nickens. His Virginia ancestry extended back to the 17th century. Eight of his ancestors fought in the American Revolution. His father taught him to read and write. Before his 1871 election to the General Assembly, he purchased 135 acres of land in Lancaster County, and in 1876, he built and gave to the county the first school for African American children. He represented Lancaster County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1871 to 1875. Mr. Nickens died in 1906.

Armistead Nickens
Frederick S. Norton

Frederick S. Norton, a shoemaker, was the brother of Virginia legislators Robert Norton and Daniel M. Norton. The dates of his birth and death are unknown. Mr. Norton represented James City County and Williamsburg in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871.

Robert Norton

Robert Norton was born a slave in Virginia. The date of his birth and death are unknown. Robert Norton and his brother Daniel ran away to the North around 1850. He returned to Virginia in 1864, established himself as the leading African American merchant in Yorktown, and represented York County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871, York and James City Counties from 1871 to 1875 and 1877 to 1879, and Elizabeth City, Warwick, James City, and York Counties and Williamsburg from 1879 to 1882. He ran unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for U.S. Congress in 1874.

Alexander Owen

Alexander Owen, a slave, was a rock mason who was born in 1830 or 1831 to Patrick and Lucy Hughes Owen. Mr. Owen represented Halifax County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871. He did not own property according to the U.S. Census of 1870, but used his legislative salary to purchase 54 acres of land.

Littleton Owens

Littleton Owens, a farmer and the son of John W. and Meheatable Cuffee Owens, was born free in 1842 in Princess Anne County. The date of his birth is unknown. He taught himself to read and write. Mr. Owens served three years in the American Civil War and owned a farm of 75 acres in the Kempsville district. Mr. Owens represented Princess Anne County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1879 to 1882. He died in 1894.

Richard G.L. Paige

Richard G. L. Paige, a lawyer and assistant postmaster, was born a slave in Norfolk and was reared by a free African American woman. According to the report of his descendants, Mr. Paige was the son of a white woman of high social standing. He was sent away to Boston where he was trained as a machinist. After the American Civil War, he returned to Virginia and studied law at Howard University, where he graduated in 1879. He acquired extensive holdings in real estate, and opened a law practice in which he represented both African American and white clients. He represented Norfolk County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1871 to 1875 and from 1879 to 1882. Mr. Paige died in 1904.

Richard G.L. Paige
William H. Patterson

William H. Patterson, a minister by profession, was born in 1809 or 1810 to a New Kent County family that had been free landowners for several generations. According to the U.S. Census in 1870, he owned $1,000 in real estate and $200 in personal property. Mr. Patterson represented Charles City County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1871 to 1873.

William H. Patterson
Ceasar Perkins

Ceasar Perkins was born a slave in 1839 in Buckingham County, the son of Joseph and Clarey Mosely. He adopted the name "Perkins" from the name of his last master. Mr. Perkins, a brick mason, farmer, storekeeper, and minister, was self-educated. He made bricks on his farm, built homes, promoted education, and organized churches, serving as pastor for them. He also entered politics and represented Buckingham County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871 and Buckingham and Cumberland Counties from 1887 to 1888. Although from 1890 to 1903, he lived in Clifton Forge, and from 1903 to 1910, he resided in Richmond, he spent the greater part of his life in Buckingham County. Mr. Perkins died in 1910 and is buried in Buckingham County on land he purchased in 1906.

Fountain M. Perkins

Fountain M. Perkins was born in 1816. He was a minister and farmer. As a Virginia slave, Perkins was educated by his owner's wife and worked as a plantation overseer. He attended a school run by a Northern teacher after the American Civil War. Mr. Perkins organized Baptist churches in Louisa County, was a landowner during Reconstruction, and represented Louisa in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871. Mr. Perkins died in 1896.

John W. Poindexter

John W. Poindexter, a teacher, was born free in Louisa County. He received his education at Howard University, where he graduated in 1872. He became the first African American school teacher in Louisa County. Although he never married, he purchased property in the county and represented Louisa in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1875 to 1877. Mr. Poindexter died in 1903.

Joseph B. Pope

Joseph B. Pope was elected as a Readjuster to a single term in the Virginia House of Delegates, representing Southampton County from 1879 to 1880. He was recognized as a "pioneering African American." Little is known about Mr. Pope's life.

Guy Powell

Guy Powell, a minister, was born a slave in 1851 in Brunswick County, the son of Milton and Pythena Powell. He was educated at Wayland Seminary in Washington, D.C. He became a property owner and, in 1879, he and his brother bought 217 acres. In 1881, he bought the half-interest in the land from his brother. Mr. Powell represented Brunswick County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1881 to 1882. He also served in the Senate of Virginia, representing Nottoway, Lunenburg, and Brunswick Counties from 1875 to 1879. For a number of years he served as the pastor of a Baptist church in Brunswick County and spent the last years of his life in Franklin. The date of his death is unknown.

William H. Ragsdale

William H. Ragsdale, the son of R. Edward and Fannie Ragsdale, was born a slave in 1844. He became a teacher. He purchased 122 acres of land in Charlotte County in 1871 for $1,400. Mr. Ragsdale represented the county in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871.

John H. Robinson

John H. Robinson, a teacher and lawyer, was born a slave in 1857 in Gloucester County, the son of Edward and Cordelia Robinson. He attended Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, now Hampton University, and graduated in 1876. He owned his home in Hampton and purchased additional property in Elizabeth City County. He was active in his church, Queen Street Baptist Church of Hampton, as deacon and clerk. He represented Elizabeth City, James City, Warwick, and York Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1887 to 1888. Mr. Robinson died in 1932.

R. D. Ruffin

R. D. Ruffin, a lawyer, was born a slave in 1837 in King and Queen County. Mr. Ruffin fought in the American Civil War and became a sergeant. He studied law at Howard University and graduated in 1874. After graduation, he first settled in Alexandria, but later moved to Dinwiddie County to practice law and enter politics. He represented Dinwiddie County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1875 to 1876 and served as the sheriff of Alexandria County from 1873 to 1874. The date of Mr. Ruffin's death is unknown.

Archer Scott

Archer Scott was a farmer who had a limited education. Mr. Scott purchased property and was very engaged in the affairs of his community. He represented Nottoway County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1875 to 1877 and Nottoway and Amelia Counties from 1879 to 1884. The date of Mr. Scott's birth is unknown; he died in 1908.

George L. Seaton

George L. Seaton was a contractor and grocer. He was born free in 1826 in Alexandria to George and Lucinda Seaton. His father was a carpenter, and he taught the trade to his sons, George and John. The Seatons were successful business owners. Mr. Seaton represented the county of Alexandria in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871. Mr. Seaton died in 1882.

Dabney Smith

Dabney Smith, born a slave in Charlotte County in 1846, was the son of William Henry and Francina Smith. A house servant with some education, he earned a living as a merchant, farmer, and mail carrier and purchased 194 acres of land in Charlotte County. He was deeply involved in politics and held office in the Republican Party organization, representing his native county. He represented Charlotte County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1881 to 1882. He died in 1920.

Henry D. Smith

Henry D. Smith, a farmer and distiller, was born a slave in Greensville County in 1834. He was self-educated. He amassed an estate of 965 acres and purchased "Merry Oaks," the farm and residence of his former owner. He supplemented his income from his farm by manufacturing brandy and whiskey in his distillery. He married three times and was the father of seventeen or more children. He represented Greensville and Sussex Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1879 to 1880. Mr. Smith died in 1901.

Robert M. Smith

Robert M. Smith, born free in New Kent County, was a blacksmith, merchant, and collector of customs. Robert Smith was a war refugee with other members of his family in 1864 in the town of Hampton. He attended night school with hundreds of other freedpeople quartered there. He learned the trade of blacksmithing. Establishing his home in Hampton, Mr. Smith first operated a blacksmith shop with his brother and later opened a grocery store and was appointed collector of customs at Old Point Comfort. He served his community for over 40 years; he was deacon of his church and served in several state and national offices in fraternal orders. He represented Elizabeth City and Warwick Counties in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1875 to 1877. He also served as Commissioner of the Revenue from 1883 to 1889 for Elizabeth City and was a member of the Hampton City Council from 1895 to 1899. Mr. Smith died in 1925.

William N. Stevens

William N. Stevens was born in 1850 to a Petersburg family that had been free for three or four generations. Mr. Stevens was a lawyer and represented Sussex County in the House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871, and the district of Dinwiddie, Greensville, and Sussex Counties from 1871 to 1879, and in 1881 and 1882 in the Senate of Virginia. He wrote to Charles Sumner in 1870 on behalf of the Civil Rights Bill: "We are as much today the victims of this hateful prejudice of caste as though we were not men and citizens." Mr. Stevens died of cancer in 1891. His father, Christopher Stevens, served on the Petersburg City Council, and a brother, J. A. C. Stevens, served as justice of the peace.

John B. Syphax

John B. Syphax was born free in Alexandria County (now Arlington) in 1835 on the Parke Custis estate. He was the son of Charles and Maria Custis Syphax. His parents, once enslaved, had been freed by the will of Parke Custis. John Syphax was educated in Washington, D.C., and became a property owner in Alexandria County. His brother, William, was a pioneer in establishing the Washington, D.C., school system. John Syphax represented Arlington County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1874 to 1875. He served as Alexandria County's Treasurer from 1875 to 1879, and as a justice of the peace. Mr. Syphax died in 1916.

Henry Turpin

Henry Turpin, a carpenter, was born a slave in Goochland County in 1836. He and six brothers and one sister were emancipated by their master, Edwin Turpin, five years before the American Civil War. Henry Turpin was taught the trade of carpentry and bought 25 acres of land in Goochland County shortly after 1865. Mr. Turpin represented Goochland in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1871 to 1873. He moved North after serving in the General Assembly and was employed by a sleeping car company. He died in 1905.

Henry Turpin
John Watson

John Watson was born in Mecklenburg County, which he represented in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868 and in the House of Delegates from 1869 until his death in 1870. Mr. Watson was active in promoting schools and churches in the county.

Maclin C. Wheeler

Maclin C. Wheeler, a farmer, was born a slave in Brunswick County in 1854, the son of Buck and Eliza Wheeler. He was highly regarded as a citizen of the county and purchased land in 1885 and 1889. He represented his native county in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1883 to 1884. The date of his death is unknown.

Robert H. Whitaker

Robert H. Whitaker was a farmer who was born a slave in Brunswick County. He was highly respected by his fellow citizens. He purchased property in the Powellton district of the county. He represented Brunswick County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1874 to 1877 and served on the county board of supervisors. The date of his birth and death are unknown.

Ellis Wilson

Ellis Wilson, a farmer and minister, was born a slave in Dinwiddie County in 1824. He spent his entire life in Dinwiddie as a minister and community leader. In 1870 and 1871, he purchased four tracts of land comprising 624 acres. He represented the county in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871. It is believed that Mr. Wilson died in 1904.

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Senate of Virginia

James William D. Bland

James William D. Bland, a carpenter, a cooper, and U.S. tax assessor, was born in Prince Edward County in 1844. His father was a free man and a cooper who purchased his wife to ensure their children's freedom. He represented Prince Edward and Appomattox Counties in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868 and Charlotte and Prince Edward Counties in the Virginia Senate from 1869 to 1870, where he served on the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice. At the Virginia Constitutional Convention, Mr. Bland proposed a resolution requesting military authorities to direct railroad companies to allow convention delegates to occupy first-class accommodations, which many railroads had refused to do. He also introduced a measure guaranteeing the right of "every person to enter any college, seminary, or other public institution of learning, as students, upon equal terms with any other, regardless of race, color, or previous condition." He was considered to be the voice of compromise and impartiality in an age of turmoil and partisanship. James Bland was one of about 60 persons killed in 1870 when the third floor of the State Capitol collapsed.
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Cephas L. Davis

Cephas L. Davis, a minister and teacher, was born a slave in Christiansville (later Chase City), in Mecklenburg County, in 1843, the son of Charles and Frances Davis. He may have attended Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) and Richmond Theological School for Freedmen (now Virginia Union University). He was ordained in the Baptist Church and was one of the first African American school teachers in Mecklenburg County. He served as pastor of some of the largest churches of his day in Virginia and North Carolina. Mr. Davis represented Charlotte and Mecklenburg Counties in the Senate of Virginia from 1879 to 1880. In 1890 Mr. Davis ran for Congress unsuccessfully in a district in North Carolina. He died sometime after May 26, 1898, when the Washington Post announced that in June he would call to order a Colored Republican League of Virginia meeting.

John Montgomery Dawson

John Montgomery Dawson was born into slavery in 1829 in Alexandria (then part of the District of Columbia). He escaped and made his way to Cayuga County, New York, where in 1860 he worked as a barber. In 1862 he enrolled at Oberlin College's preparatory department to study for the ministry. In 1864 he enlisted in the 3d Regiment New York Artillery. He became the pastor of Williamsburg's First Baptist Church in 1866 and served for more than 45 years. Mr. Dawson owned six town lots in Williamsburg and other property in York County. He may have served on the Williamsburg Common Council and was elected to the Senate of Virginia from the district of Charles City, James City, Elizabeth City, and Warwick Counties, where he served from 1874 to 1877. In 1882, he ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for Congress. Mr. Dawson died in 1913.

Joseph P. Evans

Joseph P. Evans was born a slave in 1835 in Dinwiddie County and purchased his freedom in 1859. During Reconstruction, he was a prominent leader of Petersburg's African American community, serving as a delegate to the Republican state convention of 1867, and in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1871 to 1873, representing Petersburg. Mr. Evans also represented Petersburg in the Senate of Virginia from 1874 to 1875. While a member of the General Assembly, Mr. Evans backed legislation to require compulsory education and guarantee African Americans the right to serve on grand juries when one of the litigants was an African American. He also held positions as a letter carrier and as an inspector at the Petersburg customhouse. He was elected president of a Black labor convention in Richmond in 1875, where he urged African Americans to organize themselves independently in politics and as workers. He ran unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for Congress in 1884. His son, William W. Evans, represented Petersburg in the General Assembly from 1887 to 1888. Joseph P. Evans died in 1889.

Joseph P. Evans
Nathaniel M. Grigg

Nathaniel M. Grigg was born a slave in 1857 in Farmville to Matthew and Nicy Washington. He attended night school and was a tobacco factory worker but was soon discharged for making political speeches. He entered politics and was appointed deputy collector of internal revenue. He represented Prince Edward County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1883 to 1884 and Amelia, Cumberland, and Prince Edward Counties in the Senate of Virginia from 1887 through 1890. Later, he was employed by the Bureau of Printing and Engraving in Washington, D.C. After the failure of the Republican Party to win reelection in the presidential election of 1892, Mr. Grigg went to work as a jeweler for the Wanamaker Company in Philadelphia. He died in 1919.

James R. Jones

James R. Jones was a storekeeper and postmaster. His date of birth and death are unknown. Mr. Jones served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1885 to 1887, representing Mecklenburg County. He also served in the Senate of Virginia from 1876 to 1877 and from 1881 to 1883 representing Charlotte and Mecklenburg Counties.

Isaiah L. Lyons

Isaiah L. Lyons, a native of New York born in 1842 or 1843, may have come to Virginia before the American Civil War, as the U.S. Census of 1870 lists him as living with a New York-born wife and a 12-year-old son born in Virginia. He represented Surry, York, Elizabeth City, and Warwick Counties in the Senate of Virginia from 1869 to 1871. In the Virginia General Assembly, Mr. Lyons did not oppose segregated schools; rather he insisted that African American schools should have African American teachers. Mr. Lyons was a member of the First Baptist Church in Hampton. He died while a member of the Senate on February 21, 1871. After his death, the Virginia General Assembly awarded his wife $52 to cover funeral expenses.

William P. Mosely

William P. Mosely, a native of Virginia, was born in 1819 as a house servant and operated a freight boat as a slave. He obtained his freedom before the Civil War and became well educated. Mr. Mosely was a delegate to the Virginia Black Convention of 1865, represented Goochland County in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868, and represented Fluvanna, Goochland, and Powhatan Counties in the Senate of Virginia from 1869 to 1871. He ran for Congress as a Republican in 1880 but was defeated by the Readjuster candidate.

Francis "Frank" Moss

Francis "Frank" Moss was a farmer and minister who was born free in 1825 in Buckingham County. Mr. Moss represented Buckingham County in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868, the counties of Appomattox and Buckingham in the Senate of Virginia from 1869 to 1871, and Buckingham County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1874 to 1875.

Daniel M. Norton

Daniel M. Norton was born a slave in Virginia in 1840 and escaped to the North with his brother Robert around 1850. He studied medicine in Troy, New York, and was licensed as a physician. Dr. Norton returned to Virginia in 1864 and became one of Hampton's most important political leaders. He was elected in December 1865 to represent African Americans on a Freedmen's Bureau Court. Early in 1866, as a representative of Hampton area African Americans, he testified before the Joint Congressional Committee on Reconstruction. Daniel Norton represented James City and York Counties in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868, and served in the Senate of Virginia from 1871 to 1873 and 1877 to 1879 from the district of Charles City, James City, Elizabeth City, York, and Warwick Counties, and from 1879 to 1887 from the district of Elizabeth City, Warwick, York James City, Charles City, New Kent, and King William Counties. He built an effective political machine in Hampton, and for 40 years he was a justice of the peace in York County. He was appointed collector of customs in Newport News in 1862, and served on the board of visitors of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute. He ran unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for Congress in 1869. The date of his birth is unknown; according to descendants researching the family, Dr. Norton died in November 1918 in Yorktown.

Guy Powell

Guy Powell, a minister, was born a slave in 1851 in Brunswick County, the son of Milton and Pythena Powell. He was educated at Wayland Seminary in Washington, D.C. He became a property owner, and in 1879 he and his brother bought 217 acres. In 1881, he bought the half-interest in the land from his brother. Mr. Powell represented Brunswick County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1881 to 1882. He also served in the Senate of Virginia, representing Nottoway, Lunenburg, and Brunswick Counties from 1875 to 1879. For a number of years he served as the pastor of a Baptist church in Brunswick County and spent the last years of his life in Franklin. The date of his death is unknown.

John Robinson

John Robinson born in 1822, was a lawyer and graduate of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University). He represented Cumberland County in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. In the Senate of Virginia from 1869 to 1871 he represented the district of Cumberland, Amelia, and Nottoway Counties and from 1871 to 1873 he represented the district of Amelia, Cumberland, and Prince Edward Counties. He also worked as a mail carrier and operated a saloon and general store during the 1870s. The date of his death is not known.

William N. Stevens

William N. Stevens was born in 1850 to a Petersburg family that had been free for three or four generations. Mr. Stevens was a lawyer and represented Sussex County in the House of Delegates from 1869 to 1871 and the district of Dinwiddie, Greensville, and Sussex Counties from 1871 to 1879, and in 1881 and 1882 in the Senate of Virginia. He wrote to Charles Sumner in 1870 on behalf of the Civil Rights Bill: "We are as much today the victims of this hateful prejudice of caste as though we were not men and citizens." Mr. Stevens died of cancer in 1891. His father, Christopher Stevens, served on the Petersburg City Council, and a brother, J. A. C. Stevens, served as justice of the peace.

George Teamoh

George Teamoh, born a slave in Portsmouth in 1818, was a ship's carpenter, caulker, and tailor, among other jobs. He was a delegate to the Virginia Black Convention of 1865 and a Union League organizer. He served in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868 from Norfolk County and Portsmouth. He wrote that "agricultural degrees and brickyard diplomas" were poor preparation for the complex proceedings. However, he did support the disenfranchisement of former Confederates. Mr. Teamoh served in the Senate of Virginia from Norfolk County and Portsmouth from 1869 to 1871, and, as a member of the Senate, he supported the formation of a biracial labor union at the U.S. Navy yard in Norfolk. Later, he was denied re-nomination to the Senate of Virginia in 1871, because of party factionalism, and ran unsuccessfully for the Virginia House of Delegates. He was a strong advocate of African American education. He wrote autobiographical notes that were published in 1990 under the title, God Made Man; Man Made the Slave: The Autobiography of George Teamoh.

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