George Henry White


He was the last of five Blacks who were elected and served in Congress during the Jim Crow era. George Henry White born on December 18, 1852 was a Banker, Attorney, U.S. Congressman and founder of black communities in Philadelphia and New Jersey. White was born in 1852 in Rosindale, Bladen County, North Carolina, His father Wiley Franklin White was a free person of color where his natural mother may have been a slave. White started studies at Howard University and was admitted to the North Carolina bar.


In 1896 he was elected to the U.S. Congress representing the predominantly black Second District from his residence in Tarboro. In 1898 White was re-elected in a three-way race. In a period of increasing racism and disenfranchisement of blacks in the U.S., he was the last of five African Americans who served in Congress during the Jim Crow era.


White worked for civil rights and consistently highlighted issues of justice and the treatment of blacks in the South. He supported an effort for reduction legislation derived from the 14th Amendment, to reduce apportionment of Congressional delegations in proportion to the voting population that states were illegally disenfranchising. On January 20, 1900, White introduced the first bill in Congress to make lynching a federal crime to be prosecuted by federal courts; it died in committee.


White chose not to seek a third term in the 1900 elections. He told the Chicago Tribune, "I cannot live in North Carolina and be a man and be treated as a man.”


White delivered his final speech in the House on January 29, 1901:

This is perhaps the Negroes' temporary farewell to the American Congress, but let me say, Phoenix-like he will rise up some day and come again. These parting words are in behalf of an outraged, heart-broken, bruised and bleeding, but God-fearing people; faithful, industrious, loyal, rising people, full of potential force.


White died in his home in Philadelphia, December 28, 1918, and was buried in an unmarked grave at Eden Cemetery in nearby Collingdale, Pennsylvania.

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