Who Was the First African American Governor in United States History?

When it comes to politics, the United States has a long history of trailblazers and pioneers. One such pioneer was the first African American governor in US history. Let’s dive into who this person was and their impact on American politics.

Who Was the First African American Governor?

The first African American governor in US history was Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback. He served as the governor of Louisiana for just over a month, from December 9, 1872 to January 13, 1873.

Early Life and Career

Pinchback was born on May 10, 1837 in Georgia to a white planter and his enslaved mistress. He was raised in Louisiana and worked as a teacher before joining the Union Army during the Civil War.

After the war ended, Pinchback became involved in politics. He served as a state senator for Louisiana from 1868 to 1871 before being elected as lieutenant governor under Governor Henry Clay Warmoth in 1872.

Becoming Governor

When Warmoth was impeached and removed from office in December of that same year, Pinchback became the acting governor of Louisiana. His tenure lasted just over a month before he stepped down to avoid a power struggle with William Pitt Kellogg, who had been elected as Warmoth’s successor but faced opposition from Pinchback’s supporters.

Impact on American Politics

Pinchback’s brief time as governor was historic. As an African American man during Reconstruction, he faced significant opposition from white supremacists who were still attempting to maintain control over Southern politics. Despite this opposition, he managed to make several notable appointments during his short time in office.

Pinchback’s appointment as governor paved the way for other African Americans to hold political office at higher levels. In particular, his tenure inspired men like Robert Smalls, who would go on to be elected to the US House of Representatives from South Carolina in 1874, and P.B.S. Pinchback’s own brother-in-law, James Lewis, who would become the first African American elected to the Louisiana State Senate.


In conclusion, Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was a true trailblazer in American politics. As the first African American governor in US history, his brief tenure had a significant impact on political representation for people of color. His legacy continues to inspire both aspiring politicians and everyday citizens alike.