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This Day In History: December 9th
The son of a white planter and free Black woman, Pinckney Benton Stewart (P.B.S) Pinchback, grew up to become the first Black governor in the United States. Pinchback began his duties as Louisiana’s acting governor from Dec. 9, 1872, to Jan. 13, 1873. He was the only Black person to hold this position until the election of Douglas Wilder.
He was born on May 10, 1837, in Macon, Georgia, and lived a comfortable life until his father became sick in 1848. As a youth, Pinchback had to step into an adult role and serve as the provider for his mother and siblings. He found work as a steward on a ship and would send his family money to support them.
However, when the Civil War broke out, Pinchback switched careers and began recruiting Black soldiers to fight in the war. After being skipped over for promotions, he decided to resign from the service and relocate to Alabama. The intense racial issues in Alabama proved to be too much for Pinchback and he moved to New Orleans. Shortly after his move, Pinchback took part in the 1868 constitutional convention, and the following year he was elected to the Louisiana State Senate.
In 1871, the state’s first Black lieutenant governor, Oscar Dunn, died while Pinchback was serving as president pro tempore of Louisiana’s senate. The death of Dunn left Pinchback to fill the void of lieutenant governor. The following year, Louisiana’s governor, Henry C. Warmoth was impeached and Pinchback was subsequently left to step in. He only held the position for a brief period of time, but he became the first Black governor of any state.
Pinchback won two elected positions, but his entry was blocked due to corrupt politicians. He was succeeded by William Pitt Kellogg but maintained his interest in politics. During the Constitutional Convention of 1879, he urged for the creation of a college to serve the Black students of Louisiana. He held a seat on the State Board of Education and was on the Board of Trustees at Southern University.
During his career, the former governor relocated to New York and Washington, DC, pursued a law degree and became a U.S. Marshall in the 1890s. P.B.S Pinchback died on December 21, 1921, in Washington, DC.