The Next 28 Years

The Next 28 Years

Written on 05/15/2022

George Henry White, lawyer, legislator, congressman, and racial spokesman was born near Rosindale in Bladen County North Carolina, the son of Wiley F. and Mary White. It is possible that he was born into slavery, although the evidence on this is contradictory. He did attend public schools in North Carolina and received training under D. P. Allen, president of the Whitten Normal School in Lumberton. In 1876 he was an assistant in charge of the exhibition mounted by the U.S. Coast Survey at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. After graduation from Howard University in 1877, he was principal of the Colored Grade School, the Presbyterian parochial school, and the State Normal School in New Bern. He studied law under Judge William J. Clarke and received a license to practice in North Carolina in 1879.

Entering politics in 1881, he served in the North Carolina House of Representatives for Craven County. Although an unsuccessful candidate for the state senate in 1882, he represented the Eighth District in Congress for the 1885 term and was a member of the Judiciary, Insane Asylum, and Insurance committees. In 1886 he won election to a four-year term as district solicitor of the Second Judicial District. During this period White gained the respect of many whites and blacks in his district. In addition, he became more active in religious and fraternal organizations. A founder and elder of the Ebenezer United Presbyterian Church in New Bern, he served as grand master of both King Solomon Lodge No. 1 of New Bern (1899–90) and the Colored Masons of North Carolina (1892–93).

White’s bold legislative proposals combating disfranchisement and mob violence in the South distinguished him from his more reserved contemporaries. The lone African–American Representative at the dawn of the 20th century, White spoke candidly on the House Floor, confronting Booker T. Washington’s call to work within the segregated system. He also presented the first antilynching measure, which did not pass.

The onslaught of white supremacy in his home state assured White that to campaign for a third term would be fruitless, and he departed the chamber on March 3, 1901. It would be 28 years before another black Representative set foot in the Capitol.

"I want to enter a plea for the colored man, the colored woman, the colored boy, and the colored girl of this country. I would not thus digress from the question at issue and detain the House in a discussion of the interests of this particular people at this time but for the constant and the persistent efforts of certain gentlemen upon this floor to mold and rivet public sentiment against us as a people and to lose no opportunity to hold up the unfortunate few who commit crimes and depredations and lead lives of infamy and shame, as other races do, as fair specimens of representatives of the entire colored race..."

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