to gain a voice in government. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, however, that voice began to fade as southern Reconstruction crumbled and white supremacy reasserted itself. The voice fell completely silent in 1901 when George H. White, a congressman from North Carolina and the last black person in Congress in the nineteenth century, completed his term in office and failed to be reelected. It was not until Oscar Stanton De Priest won a seat in Congress from the state of Illinois in 1928 that African Americans regained representation on the federal level. What De Priest began in the early twentieth century gained momentum until today. African Americans are well represented on all levels of government and in every state of the union. Students and scholars of politics and African American history, as well as general readers, will find in Distinguished African American Political and Governmental Leaders not only insight into the individual lives of these people but, collectively, a portrait of a struggle for freedom and equality spanning more than a century.
Each of the biographies in this book contains sections on birth, status, education, and positions held, including dates and locations, in easy-to-scan lists. The profiles also cover in more detail leaders' early years, higher education, and career highlights. Specifically, information includes parents' names and backgrounds, schools attended, awards and honors, membership and affiliations, positions and offices held, important actions or achievements, anecdotes and quotes, marriages and spouses' names, children's births and names, and deaths and burials, where applicable. Many of the sources that follow each profile include Web sites for easy access to further information; a general bibliography lists all sources in the book. Four appendixes categorize leaders by birth date, position, state, and party affiliation. In addition, cross-references are provided in bold to lead readers to related profiles in this work.
The biographies included here are drawn from a wide variety of sources, both print and electronic. At times, approximations of dates or other information are given because many of the early records concerning particular African Americans in the United States are fragmentary. Up until the middle of the twentieth century what history African Americans had was frequently dependent upon these fragments and upon memory. Amid the shelves and shelves of histories on the making of America, there seemed to be little room for black America. For the most part, black history lived not in books, but in the remembrances of those who lived it, knew its value, and shared it with others orally.
In the last 50 years, however, a dramatic change has occurred. Historians have sought out the old records, listened to the voices of the past, and documented African American involvement in the making of the United States, pushing aside some of the books on the shelves to make room for the truth. The intent of Distinguished African American Political and Governmental Leaders is to build upon that truth, to introduce the past to the readers of today and of tomorrow. Readers are invited to propose additional African American government and political leaders for inclusion in subsequent editions of this book. Please send your nominations to James Haskins; The Oryx Press; 4041 N. Central, Suite 700; Phoenix, Arizona 85012.
Myers Walter Dean. Now Is Your Time! The African- American Struggle for Freedom. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
Smith Jessie Carney, ed. Black Firsts: 2,000 Years of Extraordinary Achievement. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press, 1994.