As we continue to celebrate the heroes of our nation’s past this Black History Month, today we celebrate the life and career of our nation’s first Black Member of Congress: Joseph Hayne Rainey.
Born a slave in 1832, in South Carolina, Joseph Rainey, was the first Black man to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was a change-maker, a trailblazer, and a proud member of the Republican Party.
He knew then, what so many of us still know: that the Republican Party is the Party of Lincoln, grounded in the values of freedom and equality for all people.
This belief was held so far and wide, that the first 21 Black Members of Congress were all Republicans. In fact, it wasn’t until 65 years after Rainey was sworn in that the first Black Democrat was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Today, Rainey’s spirit is alive in Congress today, embodied in our House Republican Conference. It’s because of him that the 117th Congress looks different than the 41st Congress: this last January saw the historic swearing-in of the first Congresswoman in South Carolina, the first Iranian woman, Republican Native American woman, and Korean Americanwomen.
Now, over 150 years after his historic swearing-in, we remember Joseph Rainey as a force of nature in American politics. He broke a ceiling that was once thought insurmountable. It’s because of his courage that our nation is today a place that better meets its pledge to liberty and justice for all. We owe it to him and all those who come after us to build upon his legacy, further cementing our party as a Party for all.