African Americans sought out to hold political office positions from the moment they were allowed to do so. However, many African-Americans already held leadership positions throughout their communities. These African American leaders yearned to bring changes to the country, fighting for equality while leading the way for others to hold positions of political power as well. Here are 5 great political leaders that should never be forgotten.
1. Robert Smalls
Robert Smalls was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, on April 5, 1839, and worked as a house slave until the age of 12. At that point, he was sent to Charleston to work as a waiter, ship rigger, and sailor, with all earnings going back to his owner. When he turned 18, he negotiated all but $15 of his monthly salary and was eventually able to buy his wife and daughter from their slave owners. Ultimately, Smalls went from being a slave to serving as an influential politician in the South Carolina State legislature and the United States House of Representatives.
2. George Washington Woodbey
George Washington Woodbey was an influential African-American minister, author and Socialist. Born into slavery on a plantation in Tennessee, George Washington Woodbey was largely self-educated. As a young man, he supported himself as a miner and factory worker before becoming an ordained minister in 1874 and pastoring churches in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. By the mid-1880s, Woodbey had advocated for the cause of social reform in America, as he was a charismatic, eloquent public speaker. During the 1890s, he was Nebraska’s Prohibition Party’s candidate for lieutenant governor and was the party’s candidate for Congress.
3. Walter Burton
Walter Burton, a successful farmer, held the distinction of being the first Black elected sheriff in the United States. After the Civil War, Burton’s former owner sold him several plots of land, which made him one of the wealthiest and most influential blacks in the area. Burton was also a State Senator in Texas and served as president of the Fort Bend County Union League.
4. Jonathan Jasper Wright
Born in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Jonathan Jasper Wright was the first African American to serve on a state Supreme Court. In April 1866, Wright was appointed by General Oliver Otis Howard as head of the Freedmen’s Bureau in Beaufort, South Carolina. In July 1868, he was elected to the Constitutional Convention of South Carolina. He was the convention’s vice-president and helped draft the judiciary section of the State Constitution, which remains today.
5. George Edwin Taylor
George Edwin Taylor was born in Arkansas in 1857. He began his political campaign in Iowa in 1904. Edwin was a Black American who was the candidate of the National Negro Liberty Party for the office of president of the United States.