Honoring Black History Month: Rep. Joseph Rainey

  • February 1, 2013
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Joseph RaineyThis February, we celebrate the achievements of so many during Black History Month.

Although few realize, the South Carolina Republican Party has the honor of many firsts in Black History. Each week this month, the South Carolina Republican Party will take time out to honor those who have helped shape our party.

Today we honor the achievements of  Rep. Joseph Rainey of South Carolina, the first black man to serve in the United States House of Representatives.

Though born into slavery in Georgetown, South Carolina, his father eventually bought his family’s freedom. Rainey followed in his father’s footsteps working as a barber, first in Philadelphia and subsequently in Bermuda.

Following the conclusion of the Civil War, Rainey returned to his hometown and became Chairman of the Georgetown County Republican Party. Despite the prejudice of many South Carolinians during Reconstruction, Rainey progressed in state politics. He was elected to the South Carolina State Senate, immediately becoming the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Even with constant oppostion of southern Democrats, he continued to fight for his beliefs. As the first African American elected to the United States House of Representatives, Rainey used his political position to advocate for the rights of all Americans, including natives.

The landmarks of his career mirror those of American history, as he also became the first African American to serve as Presiding Officer of the United States House of Representatives.

Rainey’s journey laid the foundation for the success of future African American leaders, whose courage could not have come if not for the generations before him.

From slave to statesman, his dedication to the South Carolina Republican Party remains one of the most significant aspects of his legacy.

May God Bless the memory of Joseph Rainey and all those who have helped to make our party what it is today.