Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback
Happy new year! As we celebrate the dawn of a new decade, our country eagerly and anxiously looks toward another presidential election year. Since the time of Reconstruction, people of color have impacted our country’s legislation on a state and federal level. This Famous Friday feature focuses on one early influencer by the name of Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, or P.B.S. Pinchback as most commonly seen in historical references.
Pinchback was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1837, to William Pinchback a white planter, and Eliza Stewart, his former slave. Unorthodox for the times, Pinchback was educated at Gilmore High School In Cincinnati, Ohio. He also worked as a hotel porter in Indiana to avoid recapture by his paternal relatives after the death of his father. While living in Indiana he married Nina Emily and had four sons and two daughters.
P.B.S. Pinchback’s knack for public and political leadership was recognized during the Civil War. He was the only African American captain in the Union-controlled 1st Louisiana Native Guards. After the war, he became very active in the Republican party and organized the Fourth Ward Republican Club in New Orleans. In 1868, he was elected to the Louisiana State Senate and also became the State Senate president pro tempore. Three years later, he became the acting lieutenant governor. In 1872, with the impeachment of incumbent governor Henry Clay Warmoth, P.B.S. Pinchback was sworn in as the first African American governor of Louisiana and non-white governor of any state in the United States. Although his term was only 35 days, Pinchback made history. It would not be until 1990 that another African American person would sit as governor of any U.S. state.
P.B.S. Pinchback continued to remain active in politics by public service. He was elected to both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. He served on the Louisiana State Board of Education and was instrumental in establishing Southern University in New Orleans which is a historically black college. Finally, after attaining his law degree, he became a federal marshal in New York and then practiced law in Washington D.C. P.B.S. Pinchback died in 1921.
P.B.S. Pinchback was a trailblazer and fought for equality for people of color. As the election year proceeds, may we continue to see others follow in his legendary footsteps.
Skylar Wooten, Project RACE Teens Vice President