During Reconstruction, more than 1,500 African American men were elected to state legislatures in the former Confederate territory. While all the Southern states elected some African American government officials during Reconstruction, three states stand out in terms of numbers: Louisiana and Mississippi each elected more than 200 Black legislators, but South Carolina, with more than 300, had the largest number of Black elected officials. These numbers far outstrip the number of Black US congressional representation, which totaled fourteen House members—six of them from South Carolina—and only two senators. Louisiana was the only state to have an African American governor, P. B. S. Pinchback.
Born in Georgia, Pinchback was raised in Mississippi, Ohio, and Indiana. His father was a white slaveholder, and his mother was a free woman of color who took her children North to ensure their freedom. He went to Louisiana while serving in the Union army and was commissioned as an officer. After the war, Pinchback was elected to the Louisiana state senate, then appointed as acting lieutenant governor in 1871. When Governor Warmoth was suspended, Pinchback was appointed to his position. The 1872 gubernatorial election was contested, and the state’s voters then sent him to the US Senate.
Another important official in state government was Hiram Rhodes Revels, a Methodist Episcopal pastor. After serving at churches in the North and South, he was appointed to a church in Natchez, Mississippi in 1866. During the war, he had been a Union army chaplain. In 1868, voters elected him as an alderman—a local representative—of Natchez. The following year, he won election to the state senate. Following the law of the time, it was the state senators who were empowered to appoint him to an open national-level position: US Senator from Mississippi.
In both cases, the white Senators hotly disputed their right to serve and refused to swear them into office.