Monday, January 2, 2012
Galena's African-American History: Richard H.Cain, Barber turned Politician
Galena today has an African American population of less than 1%, but around the time of the Civil War a few influential African Americans called Galena home. Richard H. Cain was one of those influential African Americans.
Cain was born in 1825 to free parents in Greenbrier County, Virginia (Present-day WV). In 1848, Cain joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church, an independent black denomination started in Philadelphia. He opened an AME church in Galena (will be discussed at a later time) around this time while also operating a barbershop in town.
In 1859, Cain left Galena and became an AME deacon in Muscatine, Iowa. In 1861, Cain was called as a pastor in Brooklyn, New York. In 1862, he was ordained as an elder in 1862 and remained at the Brooklyn church until 1865.
After the Civil War, Cain moved to Charleston, South Carolina in 1865 as superintendent of AME missions. The AME Church attracted tens of thousands of converts to its denomination very rapidly.
Cain became active in politics, serving as a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1868. He represented Charleston County in the South Carolina Senate from 1868 to 1872. He also edited the South Carolina Leader newspaper (later renamed the Missionary Record).
He was elected as a Republican to the Forty-third United States Congress in a newly created at-large district. He did not run for re-election in 1874 after redistricting, but ran for the 2nd district in 1876. He was elected to the Forty-fifth United States Congress. His major congressional effort was advocating the Civil Rights Act of 1875.
In 1880 Cain was elected and consecrated a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church; he served the episcopal district which comprised Louisiana and Texas. He helped found Paul Quinn College and served as its president until 1884.
He died in Washington on January 18, 1887 and is buried in Graceland cemetery.