Timeline Capsule
Time Capsule Details | BeingBlackToday.com

George Henry White
Lawyer, Congressman, Banker
Co-founder of All African-Descended Town
Last African-Descended Congressman of the Jim Crow Era

In a period of increasing disenfranchisement of blacks in the South, George White was the last of five African Americans who were elected and served in Congress during the Jim Crow era of the late 1800s.  After them, no African would be elected from the South until 1972, after federal civil rights legislation was passed in 1965 to enforce constitutional voting and civil rights for citizens. No Africans were elected to Congress from North Carolina until 1992.

Early Life
George White was born in North Carolina, to a slave mother and a free, mixed-race father, Wiley Franklin White, who worked as a laborer in a turpentine camp.  He had one older brother, John.

In 1857, with his two sons in tows, George White’s father married Mary Anna Spaulding, a woman of mixed race.  Mary Spaulding’s grandfather, Benjamin Spaulding, was born into slavery, of a white plantation owner and African slave woman, however, his father freed him when he became a young man.  At the time George married his granddaughter, Benjamin Spaulding had acquired more than 2300 acres of pine woods land.  George and Mary White had produced several children.

Education: 1874 - 1879
In 1874, White entered Howard University, a historically black college, in Washington, DC, and became certified as a schoolteacher.  After college, he was hired as a principal at a North Carolina school.  And, as a legal apprentice under former Superior Court Judge William J. Clarke, he began to read and study the law.  In 1879, at the age of 27, White was admitted to the North Carolina bar.

Marriage and Family
1879: Married Fannie B. Randolph who died in 1880 soon after giving birth to their daughter Della.
1882: Married Nancy J. Scott, who died that same year.
1886: Married Cora Lena Cherry, with whom he had three children, Mary Adelyne, Beatrice Odessa (who died young), and George Henry White Jr.  Cora Lena died in 1905.
1915: Married Ellen Avant MacDonald of North Carolina, who survived him.

All of his children died (including Della) died before reaching adulthood, except for Mary Adelyne, who died in 1974.

Political Career
1880: Elected to a single term in the North Carolina House of Representatives, where he helped to pass a law creating four state schools for Africans, in order to train more teachers, and then went on to develop one of the schools in its early years, acting as principal and encouraging students to go into teaching.

1884: Won election to the North Carolina Senate.
1886: Elected prosecuting attorney for the 2nd judicial district of North Carolina.
1896: Elected to the U.S. Congress, representing the predominantly black 2nd District
1898: Re-elected to Congress

White used the power of his office to appoint several African postmasters across his district.  He also worked for African civil rights, consistently highlighting issues of justice, and relating discussions on the economy, foreign policy and colonization to the treatment of black in the South. 

1900: Introduced the First
In Congress to Make Lynching a Federal Crime
On January 20, 1900, White introduced the first bill in Congress to make lynching a federal crime to be prosecuted by federal courts; it died in committee, opposed by southern white Democrats.  A month later, as the House was debating issues of territorial expansion internationally, White defended his bill by giving examples of crimes in the South. He said that conditions in the region had to "provoke questions about ...national and international policy.  He said,

"Should not a nation be just to all her citizens, protect them alike in all their rights, on every foot of her soil, in a word, show herself capable of governing all within her domain before she undertakes to exercise sovereign authority over those of a foreign land—with foreign notions and habits not at all in harmony with our American system of government? Or, to be more explicit, should not charity first begin at home?"

1901: Declined to Seek 3rd Term If Not Treated as a Man
White chose not to seek a third term, telling the Chicago Tribute, “I cannot live in North Carolina and be a man and be treated as a man.”  He delivered his final speech in the House on January 29, 1901:

"This is perhaps the Negroes' temporary farewell to the American Congress, 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.

On September 26, 2009, President Barack Obama referred to White's farewell speech in his remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Awards Dinner in Washington, DC.

1901: Town of Whitesboro,
New Jersey Founded Exclusively for Blacks
George went on to become primary investor in the purchase of over 2,000 acres for building a town exclusively for Blacks, without the pressures of racism.  Shares were sold and the town of Whitesboro, named in his honor, was built and developed by the African community.