George H. White Delivers “Phoenix” Address

An image of George H. White from LearnNC

An image of George H. White from LearnNC

On January 29, 1901, North Carolina Congressman George H. White delivered his now-famous farewell address.  White was the fourth of four African Americans to represent North Carolina’s Second District in the United States Congress in the late nineteenth century. He obtained a law license in 1879 and served in the North Carolina House of Representatives and the Senate before being elected to the first of two four-year terms as district solicitor for the Second Judicial District.

White moved to Tarboro to run for office in what was known as the “Black Second” Congressional District. Elected in 1896 and 1898, he was the only black representative in Congress at the time. He was attentive to local issues and appointed many blacks in his district to federal positions. After the passage of legislation disfranchising black voters, White declined nomination to a third term, saying “I can no longer live in North Carolina and be treated as a man.” In his farewell speech he stated that “Phoenix-like he (the negro) will rise up some day and come again (to Congress).”

White was the last black member of Congress for twenty-eight years, and the last black Southerner in the body until 1973. North Carolina did not see another African-American congressman until Mel Watt took his seat in 1993.

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2 responses to “George H. White Delivers “Phoenix” Address”

  1. Pastor says :

    It’s a sad day that North Carolina are yet treating some of its citizens as second class individuals when minorities make up almost half the population. I pray that one day we shall grow up and overcome this attitude of selfishness toward our fellow man. Out of one blood God created us all. To him be glory.

  2. Patsy Cline says :

    I believe blacks and women have done more than “overcome” at this point in time. We are all on the same playing field now. Some have more advantage than others, even when they don’t deserve it. As goes LIFE, nothing in it is fair or was ever meant to be. Europeans, Jews, Asians, Hispanics, Indians, etc. are people too. We are all bent to the plow, unless you were lucky enough to be born in wealth, or given wealth.

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