December 9 - First African American Governor!

Posted on December 9, 2018

December 9, 1872: Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback became the first African American person to serve as a governor in the United States.

Pinchback was elected to the Louisiana State Senate, and he then was chosen to be the president pro tempore of the state senate. The Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana (a white guy, of course) died in 1871, so Pinchback became the Acting Lieutenant Governor - and then the Governor (a white guy, of course) was suspended during impeachment hearings, so Pinchback became the Acting Governor!

As you might imagine, in such a situation, Pinchback wasn't the Governor of Louisiana very long. As a matter of fact, he only served in this way a little longer than a month - and a month filled with holidays and time off! But Pinchback had broken the color barrier for governorships, and after his example...

 Well, after his example, it actually took a looooooooonnnnnng time before there was another African American state governor in the U.S. It wasn't until 1990 - more than a century later! - that Douglas Wilder became the first African American to be elected as governor, in the state of Virginia.

Pinchback was elected by Louisiana voters to become a U.S. Senator, but he was never seated in Congress, because racial tension, voter suppression, and other factors meant that that particular election in Louisiana was contested and the results thrown out. Sigh.

By the way, before he was (briefly) the first black governor in the U.S., Pinchback was a Union Army officer, one of the few black commissioned officers in the Union Army. And after his stint of "firsts" in Louisiana politics, he studied law, became a federal marshal, and became friends with Booker T. Washington. Cool cool. 

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