GM – FBF – Today’s American Champions were the first 33 African-American members of the Georgia General Assembly who were elected to office in 1868, during the Reconstruction era. They were among the first African-American state legislators in the United States. Twenty-four of the members were ministers.After most of the legislators voted for losing candidates in the legislature’s elections for the U.S. Senate, the white majority conspired to remove the black and mixed-ethnicity members from the Assembly. Most of the black delegates to the state’s post-war constitutional convention voted against including into the constitution the right of black legislators to hold office, a vote which Rep. Henry McNeal Turner came to regret.The members were expelled by September 1868. The ex-legislators petitioned the federal government and state courts to intervene. In White v. Clements (June 1869), the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled 2-1 that black people did have a right to hold office in Georgia. In January 1870, commanding general of the District of Georgia Alfred H. Terry began “Terry’s Purge”, removing ex-Confederates from the General Assembly, replacing them with Republican runners-up and reinstating the black legislators, resulting in a Republican majority in both houses. From that point, the General Assembly accomplished the ratification of the 15th Amendment, chose new senators to go to Washington, and adopted public education.The work of the Republican majority was short-lived, after the “Redeemer” Democrats won majorities in both houses in December 1870. The Republican governor, Rufus Bullock, after trying and failing to reinstate federal military rule in Georgia, fled the state. After the Democrats took office they began to enact harsh recriminations against Republicans and African Americans, using terror, intimidation, and the Ku Klux Klan, leading to disenfranchisement by the 1890s. One quarter of the black legislators were killed, threatened, beaten, or jailed. The last African-American legislator, W. H. Rogers, resigned in 1907. Afterwards, no African American held a seat in the Georgia legislature until civil rights attorney Leroy Johnson, a Democrat, was elected to the state senate in 1962.The 33 are commemorated in the sculpture Expelled Because of Color on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol.Today in our History – October 6, 1868 – The “Original 33” were the first 33 African-American members of the Georgia General Assembly who were elected to office in 1868, during the Reconstruction era.Black men participated in Georgia politics for the first time during Congressional Reconstruction (1867-76). Between 1867 and 1872 sixty-nine African Americans served as delegates to the constitutional convention (1867-68) or as members of the state legislature. Jefferson Franklin Long, a tailor from Bibb County, sat in the U.S. Congress from December 1870 to March 1871. The three most prominent Black state legislators were Henry McNeal Turner, Tunis Campbell, and Aaron A. Bradley.Turner came to Georgia from Washington, D.C., in 1865 to win Black congregations to the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). He was the most successful Black politician in organizing the Black Republican vote and attracted other ministers into politics. He was a delegate to the Georgia constitutional convention of 1867 and was elected to two terms in the Georgia legislature, beginning in 1868.Campbell, a native of New Jersey, was a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. In 1864 he was appointed an agent of the Freedmen’s Bureau on the Georgia Sea Islands. He later moved to the mainland. In 1867 he was elected to the state constitutional convention. The next year he became a state senator from the Second Congressional District. He built an impressive political machine in and around Darien in McIntosh County.Born in South Carolina, Bradley was a shoemaker in Augusta. Sometime around 1834 he ran away to the North, where he became a lawyer. In 1865 he returned to Georgia. He was the most outspoken member of the Black delegation to the constitutional convention. In 1868 he was elected state senator from the First District. Despite a checkered past, he rallied plantation workers around Savannah with his insistence that the formery enslaved people be given land.The church, with the enthusiastic support of Black women, who were still disenfranchised, was the center of African American political activity. Twenty-four legislators were ministers.However, religion, with its emphasis on the other world, predisposed some Black politicians to become too conciliatory. Most Black delegates to the constitutional convention voted against including in the constitution the right of Blacks to hold office. Turner later bitterly regretted that vote.In September 1868 the legislature, dominated by Republicans, expelled its African American members. Energized, the Black legislators, led by Turner, successfully lobbied the federal government to reseat them. They continued to concentrate on political and civil rights. For many of them, education had been their highest priority since 1865. With their solid support, Georgia adopted public education.Conservatives used terror, intimidation, and the Ku Klux Klan to “redeem” the state. One quarter of the Black legislators were killed, threatened, beaten, or jailed. In the December 1870 elections the Democrats won an overwhelming victory. In 1906 W. H. Rogers from McIntosh County was the last Black legislator to be elected before Black voters were legally disenfranchised in 1908. In 1976, the Original 33 were honored by the Black Caucus of the Georgia General Assembly with a statue that depicts the rise of African-American politicians. It is on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta.The “Expelled Because of Their Color” monument is located near the Capitol Avenue entrance of the Georgia State Capitol. It was dedicated to the 33 original African-American Georgia legislators who were elected during the Reconstruction period. In the first election (1868) after the Civil war, blacks were allowed to vote. But even though former slaves could now vote, there was no law that allowed black representatives to hold office. So, the 33 black men who were elected to the General Assembly were expelled. The construction of this monument was funded by the Black Caucus of the Georgia General Assembly, a group of African-American State representatives and senators who are committed to the principles and ideals of the Civil Rights Movement organized in 1975. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus commissioned the sculpture in March 1976 (Boutwell). John Riddle, the Sculptor of this monument, was also a painter and printmaker known for artwork that acknowledged the struggles of African-Americans through history.Inscribed on the base of Riddle’s sculpture are the names of the 33 black pioneer legislators of the Georgia General Assembly elected and expelled in 1868 and reinstated in 1870 by an Act of Congress.The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus continues to hold annual events honoring the Original 33. Research more about these great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!