George Henry White: An Even Chance in the Race of Life

Overview

Although he was one of the most important African American political leaders during the last decade of the nineteenth century, George Henry White has been one of the least remembered. A North Carolina representative from 1897 to 1901, White was the last man of his race to serve in the Congress during the post-Reconstruction period, and his departure left a void that would go unfilled for nearly thirty years. At once the most acclaimed and reviled symbol of the freed slaves whose cause he heralded, White remains ...

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George Henry White: An Even Chance in the Race of Life

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Overview

Although he was one of the most important African American political leaders during the last decade of the nineteenth century, George Henry White has been one of the least remembered. A North Carolina representative from 1897 to 1901, White was the last man of his race to serve in the Congress during the post-Reconstruction period, and his departure left a void that would go unfilled for nearly thirty years. At once the most acclaimed and reviled symbol of the freed slaves whose cause he heralded, White remains today largely a footnote to history. In this exhaustively researched biography, Benjamin R. Justesen rescues from obscurity the fascinating story of this compelling figure's life and accomplishments.

The mixed-race son of a free turpentine farmer, White became a teacher, lawyer, and prosecutor in rural North Carolina. From these modest beginnings he rose in 1896 to become the only black member of the House of Representatives and perhaps the most nationally visible African American politician of his time. White was outspoken in his challenge to racial injustice, but, as Justesen shows, he was no militant racial extremist as antagonistic white democrats charged. His plea was always for simple justice in a nation whose democratic principles he passionately loved. A conservative by philosophy, he was a dedicated Republican to the end. After he retired from Congress, he remained active in the fight against racial discrimination, working with national leaderas of both races, from Booker T. Washington to the founders of the NAACP.

Through judicious use of public documents, White's speeches, newspapers, letters, and secondary sources, Justesen creates an authoritative and balanced portrait of this complex man and proves him to be a much more effective leader than previously believed.

LSU Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807144770
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 7/2/2012
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin R. Justesen is the author of In His Own Words: The Writings, Speeches, and Letters of George Henry White and Broken Brotherhood: The Rise and Fall of the National Afro-American Council. He lives with his wife in Alexandria, Virginia.

LSU Press

G. K. Butterfield is a congressman for North Carolina's First Congressional District.

LSU Press

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2001

    A Man Ahead of His Time

    I first bought this book because I knew the author. I quickly discovered its real value, both as a thorough portrait of a poorly-understood era of U.S. history and as a gripping, detailed account of an important man's life. Disfranchisement of America's black citizens in the South at the turn of the century was a shameful episode in our history; George White's valiant attempts to publicize, condemn, and halt it have long been overlooked. He was the first African American to serve in Congress during the 20th century, yet few know his name or his remarkable story. His long record of public service deserves to be reassessed seriously, and Ben Justesen's book will go a long way toward doing that. I recommend it highly!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2000

    A Man Worth Knowing About

    I wrote this book, and not surprisingly, feel strongly about it. Of course I'm partial to my own work! But George Henry White was an unusual man--an honest politician in an era not widely known for honest politicians--and has never been treated fully by historians. Part of the reason was lack of documentation. He was also the last African American to serve in Congress from the South until 1972--when Andrew Young won. Because of his limited service (1897-1901) and his self-imposed exile (he left North Carolina for Washington and Philadelphia in 1901), he faded into oblivion, even for North Carolinians--few of whom even know his name today. I found him an intriguing characters, and spent three years researching his life. You may find more compelling biographies, but you won't find any more careful research--if you like Southern history, especially the post-Reconstruction era, I think you'll enjoy this book!

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