10 groundbreaking Black politicians you've probably never heard of

Most people know about the 13th Amendment and the Civil Rights Movement, but what about the individuals who won smaller, but vital, victories for representation along the way?
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Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback
P. B. S. Pinchback / Heritage Images/GettyImages

Pickney Benton Stewart Pinchback

While there was a rising level of acceptance in the late 1860s for Black politicians, they were typically only allowed to take up positions that were shared with white peers. However, Pickney Benton Stewart Pinchback (often called PBS Pinchback) managed to become acting governor of Louisiana.

Pinchback was born in Georgia, the child of a rich white man and his former slave. He got an education in Ohio, but had to cut his schooling short to care for his mother and siblings after his father's death. Despite being advised to reject his Black heritage, he was open about it while seeking employment. When the Civil War began, he managed part of the Mississippi River blockade and formed regiments of Black soldiers.

After the war, PBS Pinchback moved to Louisiana and got involved in politics, founding the Fourth Ward Republican Club and helping build the new Louisiana Constitution. In 1868, he was elected to the state senate, where he was chosen as the president pro tempore.

This position helped him get into the governorship. At the time, Henry C. Warmoth was governor and Oscar Dunn was lieutenant governor. Dunn was the first Black man to serve as acting governor on two occasions when Warmoth was unable to perform his duties. Unfortunately, Dunn passed away in 1871, leaving a vacancy.

The state senate chose Pinchback to succeed Dunn, which was remarkable in its own right. After all, he was still only the fourth Black man to serve as lieutenant governor. But then, Warmoth faced impeachment proceedings, thanks to his rejection of civil rights laws and support for Democratic candidates.

With Warmoth suspended, Pinchback served as governor from December 9, 1972 to January 13, 1972. While he only held the position for a short time, there have only been four other Black governors in the US to this day. He was also elected to the US Senate, but was blocked from taking his seat, losing political power as the Reconstruction period fell apart.