Efforts to Honor Early Black Congressmen in Florence

Oct 17, 2017

(L) James T. Rapier, (R) Oscar Stanton De Priest

Supporters are pushing for new historic markers to recognize two pioneering black Congressmen from north Alabama.

The TimesDaily reports the proposed markers in Florence would honor James Rapier and Oscar De Priest. Rapier was born a free man in 1837, educated in Canada, and returned to Alabama shortly after the Civil War. He served one term in U.S. Congress from Alabama as a Republican during Reconstruction.

De Priest was born in 1871 and moved away from Florence in 1878. He became a contractor and investor in Chicago, and was the first African American elected to Congress from outside the South, as well as the first African American elected in the 20th century.

Florence Librarian Lee Freeman and attorney William Smith are looking to raise money and get approval to place historic markers honoring the two men near the Lauderdale County Courthouse. The only monument there currently is a memorial to Confederate soldiers.