Was Josiah T. Walls the first African American congressman in Florida?
Yes, Josiah T. Walls was the first elected African American Congressman to represent Florida. Walls' story is quite remarkable. He was born into slavery in 1842 and survived life as a soldier in the Civil War (Walls actually fought for both the Confederacy and the Union; he was conscripted into the Confederate army but joined the Union after he was captured). After the war, he moved to Florida and immediately became involved in politics. He served in both the Florida State Senate and State Legislature. He was first elected to the U.S. Congress in 1871, but his opponents contested the election and he was unseated. He was elected twice more and was eventually unseated both times. After leaving Congress, Walls continued to work in politics, although at the local level. Among other offices, he was elected mayor of Gainesville, Florida.