On This Day
1872 – In Louisiana, P. B. S. Pinchback becomes the first African-American governor of a U.S. state.
Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback (born Pinckney Benton Stewart, May 10, 1837 – December 21, 1921) was an American publisher and politician, a Union Army officer, and the first African American to become governor of a U.S. state. A Republican, Pinchback served as the 24th Governor of Louisiana from December 9, 1872, to January 13, 1873. He was one of the most prominent African-American officeholders during the Reconstruction Era.
Pinchback was born free in Macon, Georgia to Eliza Stewart, a freed mulatto woman, and William Pinchback, a white planter. His father raised the younger Pinchback and his siblings as his own children on his large plantation in Mississippi. After the death of his father in 1848, his mother took Pinchback and siblings to the free state of Ohio to ensure their continued freedom. After the start of the American Civil War, Pinchback traveled to Union-occupied New Orleans. There he raised several companies for the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, and became one of the few African Americans commissioned as officers in the Union Army.
Pinchback remained in New Orleans after the Civil War, becoming active in Republican politics. He won election to the Louisiana State Senate in 1868 and became the president pro tempore of the state senate. He became the acting Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana upon the death of Oscar Dunn in 1871 and briefly served as Governor of Louisiana after Henry C. Warmoth was suspended from office. He was the first African American to serve as a US governor. African Americans were increasingly disenfranchised in the South at the turn of the 20th century; Pinchback was the only African American to serve as governor of a U.S. state until 1890. After the contested 1872 Louisiana gubernatorial election, Republican legislators elected Pinchback to the United States Senate. Due to the controversy over the 1872 elections in the state, which were challenged by white Democrats, Pinchback was never seated in Congress.
Pinchback served as a delegate to the 1879 Louisiana constitutional convention, where he helped gain support for the founding of Southern University. In a Republican federal appointment, he served as the surveyor of US customs of New Orleans from 1882 to 1885. Later he worked with other leading men of color to challenge the segregation of Louisiana’s public transportation system, leading to the Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson. To escape increasing racial oppression, he moved with his family to Washington, D.C. in 1892, where they were among the elite people of color. He died there in 1921.
Born On This Day
1779 – Tabitha Babbitt, American tool maker and inventor (d. 1853)
Sarah “Tabitha” Babbitt (December 9, 1779 – December 10, 1853) was an early American Shaker purported to be a tool maker and inventor. Inventions credited to her by the Shakers include the circular saw, the spinning wheel head, and false teeth. She was a member of the Harvard Shaker community.
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