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John W. Menard
*John Willis Menard was born on this date in 1838. He was a Black politician. From Kalkaska, Ill., he was the first Black elected to the U.S. Congress who was denied his seat by that body.
During the Civil War he served as a clerk in the U.S. Department of the Interior. In 1865 he moved to New Orleans, where he became active in the Republican Party, serving as inspector of customs and later as a commissioner of streets. He also published a newspaper, The Free South, later named The Radical Standard.
Elected to Congress from Louisiana in 1869 to fill an unfinished term, John W. Menard became the first Black Congressman in US history. He defeated a white man by a vote of 5,107 to 2,833 to represent Louisiana's Second Congressional District in the 40th Congress. Menard failed to overcome an election challenge by the loser and Congress refused to seat either man.
In 1871 he moved to Florida, where he was again active in the Republican Party and published the Island City News in Jacksonville. He died on Oct. 8, 1893 in Washington, D.C.
Black Americans In Congress 1870-1989.
Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Treese
U.S. Government Printing Office
Raymond W. Smock, historian and director 1990