Blacks in Politics, Part 1
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
In 1868 John Willis Menard was nominated to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He easily won the Louisiana seat, defeating his white opponent by a wide margin. Nonetheless the victory was contested. On 17 February 1869 Menard pled his case to the House of Representatives. This impassioned speech, depicted above, marked the first time an African American addressed Congress. Neither Menard nor his opponent was awarded the House seat but Menard holds a place in history as the first African American to be elected to the House and also as the first African American to speak on the floor.