George Henry White and Harvey Beech
George Henry White was a Republican U.S. Congressman from North Carolina between 1897 and 1901. He is considered the last African American Congressman of the Reconstruction era, although his election came twenty years after the era's "official" end. By the time of his election, Reconstruction had long since been overturned throughout almost all of the South, making it impossible for blacks to be elected to federal office. After White left office, no other black American would serve in Congress until Oscar De Priest was elected in 1928; no other black American would be elected to Congress from the South until after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960'.
Born in Rosindale, North Carolina, White first attended private "old field" schools, before entering public schools after the Civil War. He was then educated at Whitin Normal School in Lumberton, N.C., before entering Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1874. After graduating from Howard in 1877, he studied law privately and was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1879, practicing in New Bern, North Carolina. He taught school in New Bern and later became principal of the New Bern State Normal School, one of four training institutions for African American teachers created by the legislature in 1881.
White entered politics as a Republican in 1880. He was elected to a single term in the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1880, and then to the North Carolina Senate in 1884 from Craven County, N.C. In 1886, he was elected solicitor and prosecuting attorney for the second judicial district of North Carolina, a post he held until 1894.
A delegate to the 1896 and 1900 Republican National Conventions, White was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1896 and re-elected in a three-way race in 1898. As North Carolina Democrats changed laws and intimidated blacks from voting, he chose not to seek a third term and returned to law and banking. He delivered his final speech on January 29, 1901. "This is perhaps 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. These parting words are in behalf of an outraged, heart-broken, bruised and bleeding, but God-fearing people; faithful, industrious, loyal, rising people – full of potential force."
White was an early officer in the National Afro-American Council, a nationwide civil rights organization created in 1898. White moved in 1906 to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he practiced law and operated a commercial savings bank. He also founded the town of Whitesboro, N.J., as a real estate development. After the Council dissolved in 1908, he was also an early member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which formed its Philadelphia chapter in 1913. He died in Philadelphia in in 1918, and is buried at Eden Cemetery nearby.