Florida's Black Public Officials, 1867-1924

By Canter Brown Jr. | Go to book overview

governorship."4 Thus, the author excludes all individuals--in Florida's case, hundreds of men--who first entered office after Redemption (as Democratic resumption of power was called). Further, Foner insists that his book includes "all major state officials, members of constitutional conventions, and legislators." He adds, "This volume does not encompass every black person who held public office during Reconstruction, although it does include a substantial majority."5 About sixty Florida officials are mentioned, including forty-two state legislators. Yet, hundreds of black men held office in the state during Reconstruction, well over one dozen of whom were legislators not listed in Freedom's Lawmakers.

Very little is available in published form concerning the particular individuals who held public office in Florida. The single monograph-length biography is Peter D. Klingman Josiah Walls: Florida's Black Congressman of Reconstruction, although Lee Warner's recent work, Free Men in an Age of Servitude: Three Generations of a Black Family, provides a careful look at the politically active Proctor family. Otherwise, essay-length biographical sketches are available for only six leaders: Charles H. Pearce, Jonathan C. Gibbs, Robert Meacham, John Wallace, John Willis Menard, and James Page. The single account of consequence from a black leader, John Wallace's Carpetbag Rule in Florida, has been shown to be heavily influenced by white Democratic leader William D. Bloxham.6

My interest in this subject evolved from research on the life of Republican Governor Ossian Bingley Hart.7 Although during the past decades historians have portrayed black leaders in a kinder light, few have suggested that African American leadership took on a dynamic quality, much less was bold or successful. Yet, beginning in 1870 a group of politically powerful African Methodist Episcopal ministers and laymen, with the cooperation of key black veterans of the Civil War, essentially revolted against carpetbag "rings" led by United States Senator Thomas W. Osborn and Governor Harrison Reed to force, first, the nomination and election of Josiah Thomas Walls to the United States House of Representatives and, then, to bring about the election of southern Loyalist and former slave owner Hart as governor in 1872.8

With this intriguing information in hand, I naturally wondered about the rest of the story, including how long African Americans served in office, the nature of their accomplishments, and the obstacles they faced. I confess that at the outset I thought that I probably was dealing only with a few hundred individuals. Estimates for the number of black legislators, for instance, ran from the upper thirties to fewer than fifty. Research soon disabused me of such ideas, as the number climbed to well over 100 and

-x-

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Florida's Black Public Officials, 1867-1924
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction - Black Leadership in the Post-Civil War Era ix
  • 1 1
  • 2 15
  • 3 29
  • 4 43
  • 5 55
  • Biographical Directory 71
  • Appendix - Officials by Political Subdivision 143
  • Abbreviations 185
  • Notes 187
  • Bibliography 229
  • Index To Chapters 1-5 245
  • About the Author 253
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