A slave in his youth, Rainey was the first African-American to serve in the House. When Speaker James G. Blaine turned the gavel over temporarily to Rainey during an 1874 debate, Rainey became the first black American to preside over the House. Yet despite his congressional membership, he was still refused service in a Virginia dining room.
Hon. J.H. Rainey, Representative from South Carolina, engraving by Charles Bryan Hall, ca. 1870–1879
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress