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David Levering Lewis : George White

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David Levering Lewis When Congressman George White from North Carolina rose to the well of the, the House and bid farewell to his colleagues in 1901, he was the last African American elected voice that Capitol Hill would see for many years, not until the 1920s. George White represented, however, a tradition that had been fairly robust from the 1870s. Until his time considerable numbers of African Americans from Alabama, from Mississippi, indeed, from Virginia had been congressmen, had been representatives in Washington. One senator and that senator's election was always contested and he never in fact took his seat, and that was P.M.S. Pinchback from Louisiana but there were, oh, more than 20 or 30 African American representatives. And so when George White said, "Phoenix-like, we will rise. The African American will return," he obviously thought that this faustian bargain struck by Booker T. Washington was provisional and that the ballot would, indeed, be a factor in the lives of Americans nationally.

By 1900, George White was in Congress alone because all other Southern states had, by ledger domain and constitutional alterations, made it virtually impossible for African Americans to elect African Americans to represent them. And certainly whites were not disposed to do so.

He decided not to run because he knew he couldn't win. The Constitution of North Carolina was changed in 1900, although the disabling stipulations of the constitution were not to come into effect until 1902. So, in fact, he really could have run under the old game plan, but it was by that time a lost cause.

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