Black History Month 2014: The first Black… elected officials in the US

Oscar Dunn

Oscar Dunn

Pierre Caliste Landry

Every year for Black History Month I explore the obvious and not so obvious parts of American history that those called Black have taken part in. The things that we (Black people) have done other than be stolen from our homeland and made forced labor in a land foreign to us. I’m going to start this series by looking up the first time someone African-American did something and broke the color barrier in that activity or field. I’ll be starting with Wikipedia and working my way out:

I will be learning a lot of this as I go since I am a product of the standardized Euro/Anglo/Caucasian leaning public school system. I hope you enjoy learning with me. I’ll be going down the list chronologically as it appears in the Wikipedia article.

For my twenty-seventh entry this month another 2-for-1:

– First elected African-American Lieutenant Governor: Oscar Dunn (Louisiana)
– First African-American mayor: Pierre Caliste Landry, Donaldsonville, Louisiana


Oscar James Dunn (1826 – November 22, 1871) was one of three African Americans who served as a Republican Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana during the era of Reconstruction.[1]

In 1868, Dunn became the first elected black lieutenant governor of a U.S. state. He ran on the ticket headed by Henry Clay Warmoth, formerly of Illinois. After Dunn died in office, then-state Senator P. B. S. Pinchback, another black Republican, became lieutenant governor and thereafter governor for a 34-day interim period.


Pierre Caliste Landry (April 19, 1841 – December 22, 1921) was an American slave who after the American Civil War became an attorney, Methodist Episcopal minister, and politician in Louisiana. He is best remembered for being elected in 1868 as mayor of Donaldsonville, the first African American to be elected to that position in the United States.

By the end of the Civil War, Landry had married. He moved with his family to Donaldsonville, Louisiana, known for having the third-largest black community in the state. At the time, many blacks were migrating from rural areas to towns to establish their own communities, trades and businesses.

Landry was elected mayor of Donaldsonville, Louisiana in 1868, where he had founded St. Peter’s Methodist Episcopal Church and become active in local community affairs on many levels. He served as a judge, superintendent of schools, tax collector, president of the police jury, parish school board, postmaster, and as justice of the peace.

He became influential in the Republican Party, establishing the Black Republicans faction and winning election to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1872 by a large margin. His bill was passed to establish New Orleans University, which became the third Black private college in Louisiana. In 1874, he was elected to the Louisiana State Senate, serving until 1880. The Reconstruction legislature approved public education and supported a variety of public welfare institutions.n 1878. He was elected presiding elder of the Baton Rouge District in 1881. Landry was then elected presiding elder of the Shreveport District in 1885, and in 1889 he became pastor of St Paul Methodist Episcopal Church in Shreveport. At the annual Methodist Episcopal conference in 1891 he was elected to the highest position in the Methodist Episcopal Church, a Presiding Elder of the South New Orleans District.

In 1878 Landry was called as minister of St. Peter’s Church. He became more involved in church affairs, and was elected presiding elder of the Baton Rouge District in 1881. Four years later, he was elected presiding elder of the Shreveport District, where he had moved. In 1889 he became pastor of St Paul Methodist Episcopal Church in Shreveport. He regularly attended the annual conferences of the church, and in 1891 was elected to its highest position, as a Presiding Elder of the South New Orleans District.


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