African American Legislators

in Virginia

The African American Legislators Database was created in 2004 by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission as a part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. The database will eventually include all African American Legislators elected to the General Assembly during the 20th and 21st centuries.

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 and extensive research conducted by former Secretary of Administration Viola Baskerville, the Library of Virginia, and Brenda Edwards, the Commission's 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

Full entries from the Dictionary of Virginia Biography on Encyclopedia Virginia are linked to through the names below.
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 was born into slavery circa 1838 in Charlotte County. He learned to read and write and became a shoemaker. After the Civil War, he supported reforms proposed by the radical wing of the Republican Party and was elected to represent Charlotte and Halifax Counties in the convention called to write a new state constitution. On almost every issue Mr. Holmes voted for the most radical reform proposals offered during the convention. In 1869 the son of his former owner reportedly threatened to kill Holmes for his political activities. Holmes sought an arrest warrant at the courthouse, but a scuffle broke out and he was shot and killed.

Peter K. Jones

Peter K. Jones sat in the constitutional Convention of 1867–1868 and then served four terms in the House of Delegates. Born free in Petersburg about 1834, he first acquired property in 1857. Politically active after war, he urged African Americans to become self-sufficient and advocated for suffrage and unity. He moved to Greensville County about 1867, and that same year he won a seat at the convention called to write a new state constitution. A member of the convention's radical faction, Mr. Jones voted in favor of granting the vote to African American men and against segregating public schools. He represented Greensville County in the General Assembly from 1869 to 1877, working tirelessly to protect the rights of African Americans. Mr. Jones moved to Washington, D.C., and continued to support African American interests and the Republican Party. He died there in 1895.

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 George Morgan was born into slavery in Nottoway County in 1817. He worked as a shoemaker and purchased his freedom and that of his wife and children. After the Civil War he won election in 1867 to represent Petersburg in the convention called to write a new state constitution. A Republican he usually sided with the party's radical faction during the proceedings. After the convention Mr. Morgan represented Petersburg in the House of Delegates for a two-year term (1869–1871). He served three terms on the Petersburg city council. Committed to education, he was a trustee for Saint Paul Normal and Industrial School (later Saint Paul's College), founded by his son-in-law, James Solomon Russell. Mr. Morgan died at Russell's home in Lawrenceville in 1890.

Gallery of family documents »

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

Frank Moss was the only African American to be a member of the Convention of 1867–1868, the Senate of Virginia, and the House of Delegates. Little is known about his early life, but he was born likely in Buckingham County in the mid-1820s. Local tradition holds that he was born into a free family, but evidence also exists that he was enslaved. In 1867 Mr. Moss won election to represent Buckingham in the convention called to write a new state constitution. He supported radical reformers on all major issues, but his speeches were considered divisive. He represented Appomattox and Buckingham Counties in the Senate of Virginia from 1869 to 1871, and voted to ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In November 1873 Mr. Moss won election to represent Buckingham County for one term in the House of Delegates. He died in 1884, but public records do not contain the date or circumstances of his death.

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, a physician, served in the Senate of Virginia for twelve years. Born into slavery early in the 1840s, he escaped to New York in the mid-1850s with his brother Robert. He learned the medical profession and moved to Yorktown by 1865, quickly becoming a leader among the area's freedpeople. The region's voters elected him to the state Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868 and he later served in the Senate of Virginia from 1871 to 1873 and from 1877 to 1887. His brothers Robert and Frederick Norton became members of the House of Delegates. Daniel Norton often clashed with the Republican Party's leadership and launched unsuccessful candidacies for the House of Representatives. He aligned with the Readjuster Party in its early stages and played a key role in bringing African American voters into the short-lived, but powerful faction. He later clashed with political leader William Mahone, who engineered his removal from the Senate of Virginia. Mr. Norton owned considerable property in Yorktown, including the historic customs house. He died in 1918.

John Robinson

John Robinson was a member of both the Convention of 1867–1868 and of the Senate of Virginia. Born free in Cumberland County in 1825 he achieved some measure of prosperity before the Civil War, but he moved to Amelia County in 1864 after mobs attacked him twice. Highly litigious, he became involved in at least ten lawsuits to safeguard his property. Likely related to James F. Lipscomb, who sat in the House of Delegates, Robinson was elected to represent Cumberland County in the convention called to write a new state constitution. In 1869 he won a seat to the Senate of Virginia, representing Amelia, Cumberland, and Nottoway Counties. He lost reelection in 1873 and later in life operated a tavern called Effingham House, where he died in 1908.

James T.S. Taylor

Born to free parents in 1840, James Thomas Sammons Taylor served with the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War and wrote letters to the New York Anglo-African during his service. Described as a radical, he won election in 1867 to represent Albemarle County in the constitution called to write a new state constitution. African Americans, voting for the first time in Virginia, overwhelmingly supported him. Mr. Taylor spoke occasionally during convention and voted with the majority to approve the new constitution, which provided for universal manhood suffrage and the establishment of a statewide public school system. In subsequent years he twice ran for a seat in the House of Delegates, but he lost both times. Mr. Taylor remained a prominent member of Charlottesville's African American community well into the twentieth century. He died of pneumonia in 1918.

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

Most likely born into slavery circa 1822, Burwell Toler became an ordained minister in 1865 and founded churches in at least four counties. In 1867 he won election to represent Hanover and Henrico Counties in the convention called to write a new state constitution. Mr. Toler served on the prestigious Committee of Thirteen, which established procedures for the convention, and generally sided with the Republican Party's radical faction. His quest for a seat in the House of Delegates in 1868 was stopped when that year's elections were cancelled, and he lost his bid in the following year's contest. Mr. Toler remained a prominent minister and ten years later served as the moderator for the newly created Mattaponi Baptist Association of Virginia. He died in 1880.

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

Full entries from the Dictionary of Virginia Biography on Encyclopedia Virginia are linked to through the names below.
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.

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.

Britton Baskerville

Born into slavery in 1863, Britton Baskervill acquired an education after the Civil War and taught school as one of his occupations. In 1887 Republican Party leader William Mahone engineered his nomination as the party's candidate to the House of Delegates. The African American majority among the Mecklenburg County's electorate provided Mr. Baskervill an easy victory over his Democratic opponent in the general election. He stood by Mahone in 1888 when most African Americans supported the independent congressional candidacy of John Mercer Langston. A year later, however, Mr. Baskervill lost Mahone's political support and with it the Republican Party's nomination for the seat in 1889. He returned to teaching and farming, never again holding public office, before dying of tuberculosis in 1892.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

McDowell Delaney

Born to free parents about 1844, McDowell Delaney worked for a Confederate infantry company during the Civil War and likely held a job later with the Freedmen's Bureau. He entered politics by 1869 when he lost a race for the county's House of Delegates seat. Two years later he won election by a large margin to represent Amelia County in the House of Delegates. There he sided with the majority in trying to circumvent the Funding Act of 1871. Divisions within the local Republican Party likely caused his failed reelection bid, though he did represent Amelia at a state convention of African Americans in 1875. In subsequent years Mr. Delaney served in a variety of local offices, including justice of the peace, coroner, and constable. He also became engaged in such occupations as teacher, Baptist minister, and farmer. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1926.

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 Dungey was born free about 1820 and became a skilled laborer. By 1847 he began acquiring land, eventually owning 248 acres at the time of his death. The Freedmen's Bureau recognized him as a community leader after the Civil War, noting his work in building a school and church for African Americans. In 1871 Mr. Dungey was elected as a Republican to represent King William County in the House of Delegates. He sided with the Readjusters in debates and votes over how to settle Virginia crippling pre-war debt. After his term in office he served as a minister and census enumerator for the county. Mr. Dungey died in 1884.

Jesse Dungee
Shed Dungee

Born into slavery in 1831, Shed Dungee worked as a cobbler and later became a licensed preacher. Elected to represent Buckingham and Cumberland Counties for two terms in the House of Delegates, he took his seat in 1879, thirty-two years after he reportedly accompanied his owner for a term in the General Assembly. Mr. Dungee introduced an unsuccessful bill to end the restriction on interracial marriage, on the grounds that outlawing such intermarriage violated the United States Constitution. After winning reelection in 1881 he did not seek office in 1883, though he remained active in the Readjuster and Republican Parties during the 1890s. Mr. Dungee died in 1900.

Isaac Edmundson

Isaac Edmundson was born into slavery about 1840 and during the Civil War he served as his owner's body servant. In 1869 he won a seat to represent Halifax County in the House of Delegates. After his two-year term ended he worked as a barber and was able to secure both credit and real estate. He also held good enough political connections that the General Assembly passed a bill releasing him from a fine he owed to the Halifax County court. In 1924 Mr. Edmonson successfully applied for a state pension under a law that compensated African Americans who served the Confederate military in non-combat roles during the Civil War. He died 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. After the Civil War he operated a blacksmith's shop. He began purchasing land in the county in 1879, eventually acquiring ninety acres. Little is known about how he became involved in politics, but local Republicans nominated him for the House of Delegates in 1885. Mr. Faulcon won the seat handily representing Surry and Prince George Counties, but he did not present legislation or speak on the record during the term's first session. He submitted a few bills on behalf of Surry County residents during the extra session. Mr. Faulcon was the Republican nominee for the seat in 1891, but he withdrew from the race before election day. He died on an unknown date probably not long before April 9, 1904, when the Surry County Court ordered the appraisal of his estate.

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 Q. Franklin

Alexander Quincy Franklin was born in Richmond in 1852 to a former slave who had freed himself and possibly a white mother who taught him to read and write. He became a schoolteacher in Charles City County and helped establish Bull Field Academy, a school for African Americans. He also served as the county's commissioner of revenue for many years. In 1889 Mr. Franklin won election to represent the county in the House of Delegates for one term. One of only three African Americans elected in 1889 they were the last black candidates to win election to the General Assembly until 1967. Mr. Franklin died in 1924.

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 was born enslaved and gained freedom at the end of the Civil War. He rose from tobacco factory worker to grocery store owner and co-owner of a mortuary. He also invested in a brick-manufacturing facility. In 1881 he won the first of two terms in the House of Delegates representing Petersburg. A member of the Readjuster Party, he generated nationwide newspaper coverage when he criticized fellow party member and congressman John S. Wise for saying he would only meet African American members of the General Assembly in the backyard rather than in the parlor. Mr. Green served as interim treasurer for the board of visitors of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University). He continued his business ventures until his death of Bright's disease in 1892.

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 William Harris

Alfred William Harris was born enslaved in 1853 in Fairfax County. Little is known about his early life, but during the Civil War his family moved to Alexandria where he attended a school operated by the Freedmen's Bureau. He won a seat on the Alexandria common council as a 20-year-old and became a lawyer. Mr. Harris relocated in Petersburg and in 1881 won the first of four consecutive terms term in the House of Delegates representing Dinwiddie County. He is best known for introducing the bill that chartered Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University) in the House of Delegates. He played key roles during the college's first years, serving as its de facto treasurer and the first secretary of the board of visitors. 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 served four terms in the House of Delegates and also sat in the constitutional Convention of 1867–1868. Born free in Petersburg about 1834, he first acquired property in 1857. Politically active after war, he urged African Americans to become self-sufficient and advocated for suffrage and unity. He moved to Greensville County about 1867, and that same year he won a seat at the convention called to write a new state constitution. A member of the convention's radical faction, Mr. Jones voted in favor of granting the vote to African American men and against segregating public schools. He represented Greensville County in the General Assembly from 1869 to 1877, working tirelessly to protect the rights of African Americans. Mr. Jones moved to Washington, D.C., and continued to support African American interests and the Republican Party. He died there in 1895.

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.

Family document: Nathaniel Harrison and Frankey Miles of Amelia County, VA (Word doc)
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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 George Morgan was born into slavery in Nottoway County in 1817. He worked as a shoemaker and purchased his freedom and that of his wife and children. After the Civil War he won election in 1867 to represent Petersburg in the convention called to write a new state constitution. A Republican he usually sided with the party's radical faction during the proceedings. After the convention Mr. Morgan represented Petersburg in the House of Delegates for a two-year term (1869–1871). He served three terms on the Petersburg city council. Committed to education, he was a trustee for Saint Paul Normal and Industrial School (later Saint Paul's College), founded by his son-in-law, James Solomon Russell. Mr. Morgan died at Russell's home in Lawrenceville in 1890.

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Francis "Frank" Moss

Frank Moss was the only African American to be a member of the Convention of 1867–1868, the Senate of Virginia, and the House of Delegates. Little is known about his early life, but he was born likely in Buckingham County in the mid-1820s. Local tradition holds that he was born into a free family, but evidence also exists that he was enslaved. In 1867 Mr. Moss won election to represent Buckingham in the convention called to write a new state constitution. He supported radical reformers on all major issues, but his speeches were considered divisive. He represented Appomattox and Buckingham Counties in the Senate of Virginia from 1869 to 1871, and voted to ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In November 1873 Mr. Moss won election to represent Buckingham County for one term in the House of Delegates. He died in 1884, but public records do not contain the date or circumstances of his death.

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 Smith Norton

Frederick Smith Norton, one of three brothers elected to the General Assembly, served one term in the House of Delegates and later sat on Williamsburg's city council. Born into slavery late in the 1820s, he represented James City County and Williamsburg from 1869 until 1871, during which time he voted with the majority to ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Mr. Norton often differed politically from the Yorktown-based brothers, Robert Norton, who sat in the House of Delegates, and Daniel Norton, who served in the Convention of 1867–1868 and the Senate of Virginia. Frederick Norton embraced Radical Republicanism in the 1860s while his brothers were more sympathetic with the Conservative Party. They all later joined the Readjuster Party, but he withdrew and supported the Republicans against his brothers. He identified himself as a Democrat in his later years. Mr. Norton died in 1893.

Robert Norton

Born into slavery about 1840, Robert Norton became a longtime member of the House of Delegates and even chaired the Committee on Labor and the Poor during the General Assembly of 1881–1882. Norton and his brother Daniel Norton escaped slavery in the mid-1850s. After the Civil War, Robert Norton settled in Yorktown in 1865. He won his first election to the House of Delegates in 1869, serving all but one term through 1883. His older brother Frederick Norton also sat in the House of Delegates, while brother Daniel sat in the Convention of 1867–1868 and the Senate of Virginia. Robert Norton served as a delegate to Republican and Readjuster national and state conventions, and launched an unsuccessful campaign for the House of Representatives. Later he was named to the board of visitors of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University) and held a gubernatorial appointment as a curator of the fund for Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University). Mr. Norton died in 1898.

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 Gault Leslie Paige was born into slavery in 1846 in the city of Norfolk. He escaped to Philadelphia about 1857 and settled in Boston. After the Civil War he returned to Norfolk and purchased the local African American burial ground (later Mount Olive Cemetery). In 1871 he won election as a Republican to represent Norfolk County in the House of Delegates, serving in the assembly from 1871–1875 and 1879–1882. Mr. Paige lobbied for civil rights, served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, and received an appointment as an assistant clerk at the Norfolk customs house. In 1892 he helped pass legislation chartering the Virginia Building and Savings Association and became a founding member of its board of directors. From 1882 to 1885 he sat as secretary of the curators of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University). Mr. Page 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

Caesar Perkins was born into slavery in 1839 and after the Civil War became a leader within Brunswick County's African American community. In 1869 he captured one of the county's two seats in the House of Delegates. Outside of politics he purchased 628 acres in 1870, and later operated a general store and two ordinaries. He became an ordained Baptist minister by 1877. Mr. Perkins remained involved with public affairs, following most African American politicians into the short-lived Readjuster Party and then into the Republican Party. He won his second term in 1887, eighteen years after his first election, representing Brunswick and Caroline Counties in the House of Delegates. Mr. Perkins died in 1910. He was buried on property he owned near Dillwyn, in Buckingham County.

Fountain M. Perkins

Fountain M. Perkins was born into slavery in 1816 and eventually became an overseer on his owner's farm. By 1867 he had become a preacher and an official with the Freedmen's Bureau considered him a prominent man in Louisa County. In 1869 he won one of the county's two seats in the House of Delegates. He voted to ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Mr. Perkins did not run for reelection in 1871 but stayed active in politics during the next two decades, attending local Republican meetings, sitting as an election judge, and serving on the state central committee. 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

Robert Davis Ruffin, born into slavery in 1842, lived a long but controversial public life. In 1874 voters in Alexandria (later Arlington) County elected him sheriff, possibly the first African American to hold the position in state history, but he resigned as pressure mounted over his residency. The following year he won election to represent Dinwiddie County in the House of Delegates. Mr. Ruffin survived a challenge to his election over residency issues and he introduced three bills that died in committee. His tenure is most notable for being expelled from the assembly in 1876 when the overwhelming majority of delegates believed he stole money from the first door keeper. A lawyer who engaged in real estate, Mr. Ruffin rose from slave to owner of lands reportedly worth millions of dollars. His financial climb was matched with an extended number of lawsuits and arrests. To what degree his troubles stemmed from wrongdoing and how much were the result of a cutthroat political climate is unknown. Mr. Ruffin died of a stroke in 1916 at a Chicago hospital.

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 Lewis Seaton

George Lewis Seaton was born free about 1822 and worked as a carpenter and conducted multiple property transactions. After the Civil War he worked to improve the lives of former slaves as he constructed two schools for Alexandria's freedpeople and helped establish a local branch of the Freedman's Savings Bank and Trust Company. Mr. Seaton's strong reputation played a role in his selection to what was likely the first interracial jury in Virginia history. In 1869 he won election to the House of Delegates representing Alexandria. In his single term, he voted with the majority to ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. He lost a bid for reelection in 1871 by fewer than one hundred votes, but continued to participate in party politics. He died in 1881. The George Lewis Seaton House was added to the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

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

Full entries from the Dictionary of Virginia Biography on Encyclopedia Virginia are linked to through the names below.
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.

Cephas L. Davis

Born into slavery about 1839, Cephas L. Davis spent much of the 1870s as a pastor in Mecklenburg County, though it appears controversy drove him from the ministry temporarily. In 1879 he ran for the Senate of Virginia as a Republican to represent Charlotte and Mecklenburg Counties, winning narrowly in a three-way race. Mr. Davis later joined the Readjusters, saying that the new party's members treated him as an equal. He did not seek reelection after his one term, but he remained involved in local politics. He moved to North Carolina in 1887, where he taught school, and served as a principal and pastor. By 1902 Mr. Davis had moved to Philadelphia, where he died in 1907.

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 Leonard Lyons was born in New Jersey in 1843 and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where he worked as a clerk. During the Civil War he served in Virginia with the United States Colored Troops, and later settled in Hampton. By 1869 Mr. Lyons worked as a druggist and that year easily defeated a white candidate to win election to a two-year term in the Senate of Virginia representing the district comprising Elizabeth City, Surry, Warwick, and York Counties. He then became the only African American member to vote against ratifying the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. He reasoned that the assembly itself was illegitimate, and its actions illegal, because most of its white members could not take the required oath stating they had been loyal to the United States during the war. Mr. Lyons died at his home in Hampton in 1871 from heart disease brought on by the typhoid fever and malaria he had contracted during the war.

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.

Frank Moss

Frank Moss was the only African American to be a member of the Convention of 1867–1868, the Senate of Virginia, and the House of Delegates. Little is known about his early life, but he was born likely in Buckingham County in the mid-1820s. Local tradition holds that he was born into a free family, but evidence also exists that he was enslaved. In 1867 Mr. Moss won election to represent Buckingham in the convention called to write a new state constitution. He supported radical reformers on all major issues, but his speeches were considered divisive. He represented Appomattox and Buckingham Counties in the Senate of Virginia from 1869 to 1871, and voted to ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In November 1873 Mr. Moss won election to represent Buckingham County for one term in the House of Delegates. He died in 1884, but public records do not contain the date or circumstances of his death.

Daniel M. Norton

Daniel M. Norton, a physician, served in the Senate of Virginia for twelve years. Born into slavery early in the 1840s, he escaped to New York in the mid-1850s with his brother Robert. He learned the medical profession and moved to Yorktown by 1865, quickly becoming a leader among the area's freedpeople. The region's voters elected him to the state Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868 and he later served in the Senate of Virginia from 1871 to 1873 and from 1877 to 1887. His brothers Robert and Frederick Norton became members of the House of Delegates. Daniel Norton often clashed with the Republican Party's leadership and launched unsuccessful candidacies for the House of Representatives. He aligned with the Readjuster Party in its early stages and played a key role in bringing African American voters into the short-lived, but powerful faction. He later clashed with political leader William Mahone, who engineered his removal from the Senate of Virginia. Mr. Norton owned considerable property in Yorktown, including the historic customs house. He died in 1918.

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 was a member of both the Senate of Virginia and the Convention of 1867–1868. Born free in Cumberland County in 1825 he achieved some measure of prosperity before the Civil War, but he moved to Amelia County in 1864 after mobs attacked him twice. Highly litigious, he became involved in at least ten lawsuits to safeguard his property. Likely related to James F. Lipscomb, who sat in the House of Delegates, Robinson was elected to represent Cumberland County in the convention called to write a new state constitution. In 1869 he won a seat to the Senate of Virginia, representing Amelia, Cumberland, and Nottoway Counties. He lost reelection in 1873 and later in life operated a tavern called Effingham House, where he died in 1908.

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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