On Feburary 1, 1871, Jefferson Franklin Long, Georgia’s first African American Congressman, became the first African American to speak on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Originally from Alabama, Long was born into slavery and eventually found himself as the slave of a prominent business man in Macon, Georgia. It was in Macon that Long became a tailor and taught himself to read by inspecting the typewriters at the local newspaper, which was located next door to his shop.
After the Civil War ended, Long opened his own shop and became active in the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Macon and the Republican Party. He became a Congressman in December of 1870 and was Georgia’s first African American Congressman.
He took the floor of the House to speak against a bill that would repeal legislation that prevented Confederate officials and militiary officers from holding public office. The bill had previously passed the Senate and had been sent to the House for a vote. That is when Long took the floor, and said:
“Do we, then, really propose here to-day, when the country is not ready for it, . . . when loyal men dare not carry the ‘stars and stripes’ through our streets, for if they do they will be turned out of employment, to relieve from political disability the very men who have committed these Kuklux outrages?”
The Bill passed later that day, despite Long’s efforts. Long perished in 1901 from a bout with influenza and was laid to rest in Macon’s Linwood Cemetery. While Long’s speech had little impact on the vote before the House, one would be remiss to ignore his place in Georgia’s history.