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December in KnowLA

pinchbackOn Dec. 9, 1872, Pinckney Benton Stewart “P. B. S.” Pinchback became the first African American to serve as governor of any American state, when he was sworn into office as Louisiana’s chief executive. His term in office lasted a mere 35 days following the impeachment of Henry Clay Warmouth, a time of intense political upheaval in Louisiana as opposing factions of Radical Republicans jockeyed for power.

Pinchback retained the historical distinction of being the only black governor of any state, until the election of Virginia’s Douglas Wilder in 1989. The son of a white Southern planter and a former slave, Pinchback previously served as one of the Union Army’s few commissioned officers of African descent during the Civil War and nominated Ulysses S. Grant for president at the 1868 Republican National Convention.

In later years he helped establish Southern University, a historically black college in Baton Rouge. Lauded by his contemporaries for his efforts on behalf of civil rights, while at the same time decried for his moral ambiguity, Pinchback was a complex political figure who defied easy categorization. To read more about his life and times, visit this biographical KnowLA encyclopedia entry by Justin A. Nystrom.

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