Sixteen African-American men served in the United States Congress during the Reconstruction period.
Many of these people also served as members of the state conventions by which the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified.
Despite their centrality to Reconstruction’s experiment in multiracial democracy, they are largely forgotten.
Despite their special perspective on the meaning of the Reconstruction Amendments, by which basic civil rights and civil liberties are defined and protected in the United States, their voices are largely ignored in constitutional jurisprudence.
Reproduced here are the speeches they gave in debates of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 and the Ku Klux Klan Act.
As a result of the characteristic and admirable generosity of Eric Foner, who graciously gave his consent, biographies of each of the 16 are hereafter reproduced from Foner’s invaluable book, Freedom’s Lawmakers.
Read their words.
They enrich the meanings of liberty and citizenship.
Robert B. Elliot
Jan. 6, 1874
Josiah T. Walls
Jan. 6, 1874
John R. Lynch
Feb. 3, 1875
Interviews with Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement
Below are links to videos of interviews with veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.
Ruben Anderson and Fred Banks
Jessie Harris and Willie Blue
Douglas McArthur Cotton
Leslie McLemore (Part 1 of 2)
Leslie McLemore (Part 2 of 2)