Joseph H. Rainey is elected to U.S. house of representatives. He was the house’s first Black member.
1870 (Dec 12)
Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina was seated in the U.S. house of representatives. Rainey was born to enslaved parents in George town, South Carolina, in 1832. His own freedom was purchased before the civil war by his father, a barber. A well educated Mulatto, Rainey himself became a barber in Charleston. Even though he was a respected member of the Charleston Black community, he was called to work on fortifications by the confederates during the civil war. Rainey refused and exiled himself in the West Indies, where he remained until the end of the civil war. During reconstruction, he returned to South Carolina and served as a delegate to the constitutional convention of 1868. In 1870 he was elected to the state senate, but soon resigned to accept the house seat vacated by B. Franklin Whittimore. Rainey was then elected to the four succeeding congresses. As a house member, he frequently spoke in favor of education and other social advances for Blacks. The house's first Black member was also a consultant to President Rutherford B. Hayes and once received the president's personal commendation for sobriety and attention to duty. After returning from congress in 1879, Rainey served as an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent in South Carolina, then entered business in Washington, D.C. He returned to Georgetown in 1886 and died there a year later.