Vandaag is het 95 jaar geleden dat Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback is overleden. On 9 December 1872 he was the first person of African-American descent to become governor of a U.S.state. Dat is uiteraard verbazend nieuws. De Civil War lag nog maar net achter de rug en in Louisiana kan een “kleurling” al gouverneur worden!
Ja maar, zal u zeggen, ik zie daar helemaal niets “gekleurd” aan. Inderdaad, maar de clou van de historie zit ‘m in de toevoeging “born Pinckney Benton Stewart”. Bij de geboorte droeg hij m.a.w. enkel de naam van zijn moeder en die was, u voelt me al komen, wel degelijk een slavin. Maar ook zijzelf was al een dunne spoeling: Eliza Stewart was classified as mulatto, of African, Cherokee, Welsh and German ancestry. Later (nà de Civil War) kreeg hij dus ook de naam van zijn vader William Pinchback, a planter and former master of Eliza. They lived together as husband and wife as interracial marriage was forbidden by state law.
Pinckney was raised as white, and his parents sent him north to Cincinnati, Ohio, to attend school. In 1848, Pinchback’s father died. William Pinchback’s relatives disinherited his mulatto common-law wife and children and claimed his property in Mississippi. Fearful that the Pinchbacks might try to claim her five children as slaves, Eliza Stewart fled with her children to Cincinnati in the free state of Ohio.
When the Civil War began, Stewart decided to fight on the side of the Union. He raised several companies for the Union’s all-black 1st Louisiana Native Guards Regiment, which was garrisoned in the city. A minority of men were Louisiana Creoles of color, part of the educated class; most were runaway slaves. Commissioned a captain, he was one of the Union Army’s few commissioned officers of African-American ancestry. Passed over twice for promotion and tired of the prejudice he encountered from white officers, Stewart resigned his commission in 1863.
In 1868 he was elected as a State Senator, where he became senate president pro tempore of a Legislature that included 42 representatives of African-American descent (half of the chamber, and seven of 36 seats in the Senate). In 1871 he became acting lieutenant governor upon the death of Oscar Dunn, the first elected African-American lieutenant governor of a U.S. state. Dus eigenlijk is deze nog belangrijker dan hem en bovendien ziet die er ook echt zwart uit (zie onderstaande afbeelding).