Breaking Barriers

Breaking Barriers

Written on 09/17/2023

Jerimiah Haralson was born a slave near Columbus, Georgia, he was taken to Alabama and kept in bondage until 1865. After attaining his freedom, Haralson taught himself how to read and write. According to records he then became a farmer and a clergyman, a powerful orator and, debater. In 1870 he ran for Congress as an independent and defeated the Republican candidate.

In 1870, the twenty-first district elected Haralson to the state Senate and two years later he urged Black voters to turn away from the republican movement and remain loyal to the reelection of President Grant. In 1874, he was elected to Congress and took his seat on March 4, 1875, serving on the Committee on Public Expenditures. Though he made no speeches on the House floor, he introduced several pieces of legislation, including a bill to use proceeds from public land sales for educational purposes and a bill for the relief of the Medical College of Alabama.

He presented a petition from citizens of Mobile requesting compensation for use of a medical college building and supplies by officials of the Freedmen’s Bureau. Haralson differed from many in his own party when he criticized the use of federal soldiers to control violence and ensure orderly voting in the South during the 1876 election. He also was in favor of general amnesty for former confederates.

After leaving Congress, Haralson worked a clerk at Baltimore’s federal customhouse and a clerk in the Department of the Interior.


"Haralson demonstrated a natural shrewdness and a gift for politics, yet contemporaries described him as forceful, “uncompromising, irritating, and bold.”

Let us know what you think of our stories by leaving a comment.

GPO-CDOC-108hdoc224-2-2-13 GPO-CDOC-108hdoc224-2-2-13