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Representative George Henry White of North Carolina, photograph, ca. 1900

Representative George Henry White of North Carolina was the only African American in the 55th and 56th Congresses (1897–1901) and the last black member of Congress until 1929. He introduced a resolution in 1898 to aid the family of a black postmaster lynched for refusing to give up his job. In 1900 White resolved to make lynching a federal crime.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Representative George Henry White of North Carolina, photograph, ca. 1900

Ida B. Wells-Barnett: Antilynching Activism

Incidents of lynching surged in the 1880s as violent mobs brutally murdered persons accused of crimes, disregarding due process of law. Lynching was used against all races, but predominantly against African American males. Muckraker Ida B. Wells-Barnett, a black journalist and civil rights activist, launched a crusade against lynching in the 1890s. In 1900 Representative George Henry White of North Carolina introduced the first antilynching bill in Congress. Similar resolutions followed, but none passed in the Senate. In 2005 the Senate apologized for its failure to outlaw lynching.

In slave times the Negro was kept subservient and submissive by the frequency and severity of the scourging, but, with freedom, a new system of intimidation came into vogue; the Negro was not only whipped and scourged; he was killed.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, A Red Record, ca. 1895