Georgia’s first African-American congressman was born a slave.
Jefferson Franklin Long was born in Alabama in 1836. His master sold him to a man in Macon. Long taught himself to read and write while setting type for the Macon newspaper.
Long attended Macon’s African Methodist Episcopal Church and was deeply influenced by Henry McNeal Turner, one of Georgia’s most prominent African-American leaders during Reconstruction, and a Republican Party organizer.
Long became an active Republican and helped elect 32 African-Americans to the state Legislature in 1867. In December 1870, Long won a special election and became the state’s first black congressman. He went on to become the first African-American to speak on the floor of the House of Representatives when he opposed an amnesty bill for former Confederates.
White supremacy ended Reconstruction and black political participation. Georgia wouldn’t have another black congressman until Andrew Young in 1972, over a century after the trailblazing former slave took the oath as Georgia’s first on January 16, 1871, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.