Marker honors black Southern congressman from NC

Posted January 29, 2011 7:42 a.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2011 9:55 a.m. EST

— A North Carolina congressman whose departure from Capitol Hill in 1901 began decades without any black representation from the South will be honored with a historical highway marker.

The marker for U.S. Rep. George Henry White will be unveiled at Main and Granville streets in downtown Tarboro Saturday during with an annual event in his honor.

White was elected to the U.S. House in 1896 and 1898, making him the only black member in Congress at that time. He declined to run for a third term after a state law that disenfranchised black voters was passed. A black Southerner wasn't elected to Congress again until 1972.

Saturday marks the 110th anniversary of White's farewell speech to Congress.

"This, Mr. Chairman, may be the Negroes’ temporary farewell to the American Congress," he said, "but let me say, Phoenix-like, he will rise up some day and come again.”

While in Congress, White introduced the first bill condemning lynching, according to state historians. He appointed many blacks to federal positions and was attentive to local issues.

After completing his second term, White moved from Tarboro to Philadelphia. He died in 1918.