Jeremiah Haralson Information

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Jeremiah Haralson
Jeremiah Haralson - Brady-Handy.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1875 - March 3, 1877
Preceded by Frederick George Bromberg
Succeeded by James T. Jones
Member of the Alabama Senate
In office
Member of the Alabama House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
BornApril 1, 1846
near Columbus, Georgia
Died1916 (aged 69–70)
near Denver, Colorado
Political party Republican

Jeremiah Haralson (April 1, 1846 – 1916), was a politician from Alabama who was among the first ten African-American Congressmen elected in the United States. Born into slavery in Columbus, Georgia, Haralson became self-educated while enslaved in Selma, Alabama. He was a leader among freedmen after the American Civil War.

He became active in politics, being elected as a Republican to the State House and the State Senate from Dallas County, Alabama. He was elected and served in the United States House of Representatives, representing Alabama's 1st congressional district in the 44th United States Congress.

The conservative Democrats gained control of the state legislature and gerrymandered several districts. In 1876 Haralson was forced to run from the changed Alabama's 4th congressional district, the only one still having a majority-black population. Running as an independent against the Republican candidate, James T. Rapier, Haralson essentially split the Republican vote. Dallas County Sheriff Charles M. Shelley, a Democrat, won the seat with 38% of the vote.

Although not successful in gaining elective office again, Haralson was appointed to Republican patronage positions in the Customs Service, Department of Interior, and the Pension Bureau in Washington, DC. After 1884 he returned to the South.

Early life and education

Born into slavery on the plantation of John Walker near Columbus, Georgia, Haralson was self-educated. [1][ page needed] He was sold on the auction block in Columbus to J.W. Thompson. [2])

When Thompson died, Jeremiah was sold to Judge Jonathan Haralson of Selma, Alabama. [1] This was the county seat of Dallas County, which had a majority-black population both before and after the Civil War. Jeremiah was enslaved until 1865. While a slave, he became a preacher. [3]

Political career

After emancipation, Haralson taught himself to read and write and worked for a time as a farmer. He became involved in politics. In 1868 he campaigned for Democrat Horatio Seymour to defeat Republican Ulysses S. Grant for president. Some ex-Confederates questioned his sincerity, as most freedmen were supporting the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, who had gained their emancipation. [4]

Some sources say that Haralson was a candidate for U.S. Congress in 1868. But the official results do not list him as a candidate. He would have been running from the Alabama First District, which reported 100% of votes for one candidate, so they may have conducted a primary in which he was defeated. [5]

In 1870 Haralson allied with the Republican Party, but he maintained a network with some Democrat leaders. Republicans were suspicious of Haralson because of his friendships with Democrats such as Jefferson Davis, former president of the Confederacy; Rep. Lucius Q. C. Lamar of Mississippi, and Georgia Senator John B. Gordon, who was later elected as governor of that state. [4]

In 1870 Haralson was elected as a Republican and the first black member of the Alabama House of Representatives. In 1872 he was elected to the State Senate in 1872 from the Twenty-First District. When he helped get a civil rights bill through the Senate during his term, he was considered politically powerful. [6]

He backed Republican Ulysses S. Grant for president in 1872. His pro-Grant stance brought him into disputes with P. B. S. Pinchback, the African-American governor of Louisiana, who served for thirty days following the suspension of the Republican governor there during impeachment proceedings because of a disputed gubernatorial election in that state in 1872.

In 1874, Haralson was elected as a Republican from Alabama's 1st congressional district, which then included Selma, to the Forty-fourth U.S. Congress (March 4, 1875 - March 3, 1877). His election was contested by Liberal Republican Frederick G. Bromberg. Haralson asked Judge Jonathan Haralson, his former master, to advocate his cause. The judge agreed and contacted his friends (former Confederates and current Democrats) serving in Congress. With the judge's advocacy, Haralson was accepted into the House of Representatives in March 1875. [6] As a member of Congress, Haralson sought a general amnesty for former Confederates (who had been temporarily barred from office) in order to help create harmony between blacks and whites.

Haralson's oratorical abilities drew the commendation of Frederick Douglass, an established civil rights leader in the North. Douglass described Haralson as speaking “with humor enough in him to supply a half dozen circus clowns.” [6]

In 1876 Haralson ran for reelection. Due to redistricting by the state legislature to accomplish gerrymandering, he was running for Alabama's 4th congressional district, which then had a black majority. Election campaigns in the 1870s had been violent as Democrats sought to regain political control of the state, using fraud, intimidation and physical violence to suppress the black vote, because of the black-majority or near-majority population in many counties, who were voting for Republican candidates.

Former congressman James T. Rapier, who was also African American, had bought a plantation in this district. This was the only remaining Alabama district in which the black population still comprised a majority population. Rapier won the Republican primary and thus the nomination, but Haralson ran as an independent. Their competition split the black Republican vote: Haralson received 33.93% of the vote, more than Rapier's 28%. But the Democratic candidate Charles M. Shelley, former Dallas County Sheriff, won the seat with 38% of the vote.

Haralson ran against Shelley again in 1878. He received 42.57% of the vote, or 6,545 votes, and was defeated again. This was considerably lower than the 8,675 he had received two years before, showing the effects of Democratic suppression of the black Republican vote.

In 1879, Haralson was appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes to a Federal patronage position in the United States customhouse in Baltimore, Maryland. [4] He was later employed as a clerk at the Department of the Interior. Appointed on August 12, 1882 to the Pension Bureau in Washington, D.C.; he served until August 21, 1884.

Haralson moved to Louisiana, where he engaged in agricultural pursuits. He moved to Arkansas in 1894, where he served as pension agent for a short time. He returned to Alabama and settled in Selma in 1912.

Personal life

In 1870, Jeremiah Haralson married Ellen Norwood; they had a son, Henry, born in 1871. [7] In 1885, Booker T. Washington proudly announced that Henry was a student at Tuskegee Institute, where Washington was president. [8]

Later life and death

Haralson moved to Texas and later to Oklahoma and Colorado. He worked as a coal miner in Colorado. He was killed by wild animals while hunting near Denver circa 1916. [6]

See also


  1. ^ a b History of the Negro Race in America, Free Fiction Books
  2. ^ According to the testimony of former slave Rias Body, the Columbus slave mart was at 1225 Broad Street; "WPA Slave Narrative of Rias Body"
  3. ^ "Jeremiah Haralson", Biographies of Former Congressmen
  4. ^ a b c Bruce Derbes, "Jeremiah Haralson", Encyclopedia of Alabama
  5. ^ Dubin, Michael J. "United States Congressional Elections, 1788-1997: The Official Results". McFarland& Company, Inc., Publishers. Jefferson, North Carolina. 1998.
  6. ^ a b c d People: Haralson, Jeremiah (1846–1916), History, Art & Archives, House of Representatives
  7. ^ "Jeremiah Haralson - Encyclopedia of Alabama". Encyclopedia of Alabama.
  8. ^ Washington, Booker T.; Harlan, Louis R. (1 October 1972). "Booker T. Washington Papers Volume 2: 1860-89. Assistant Editors, Pete Daniel, Stuart B. Kaufman, Raymond W. Smock, and William M. Welty". University of Illinois Press – via Google Books.

Further reading

  • United States Congress. "Jeremiah Haralson (id: H000179)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • Bailey, Richard. They Too Call Alabama Home: African American Profiles, 1800-1999. Montgomery: Pyramid Publishing, 1999.
  • Clay, William L. Just Permanent Interests: Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1991. New York: Amistad Press, 1992.
  • Foner, Eric. Freedom's Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders during Reconstruction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1996.

Historical novel

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Frederick Bromberg
Member of the  U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 1st congressional district

March 4, 1875 – March 3, 1877
Succeeded by
James T. Jones