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Oscar De Priest
On this date, we recall the birth of Oscar De Priest in 1871. He was a Black politician.
Oscar Stanton De Priest was born in Florence, AL; when he was six years old, he and his family moved to Kansas. His formal education included business and bookkeeping classes before he ran away to Dayton, Ohio, with two white friends. He ended up in Chicago in 1889 as a painter and decorator.
There he acquired a fortune in real estate and the stock market. In 1904, De Priest entered politics and was elected as the Cook County Commissioner. Four years later, he was appointed an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention and became Chicago’s first Black alderman in 1915.
In 1928, he became the first Black from outside the south to be elected to Congress. De Priest became the unofficial spokesman for the 11 million Blacks during the 1920s and 1930s. He proposed that states who discriminated against Blacks be given fewer congressional seats and a monthly pension be given to ex-slaves over the age of 75. His stance against federal relief programs during the depression dismayed many of his supporters, however. In 1934, Arthur W. Mitchell defeated him for his congressional seat.
De Priest remained active in public life, serving from 1943 to 1947 as alderman of the third ward in Chicago, then returning to his real estate business. He died on May 12, 1951.
Black Americans In Congress, 1870-1989.
Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Treese
U.S. Government Printing Office
Raymond W. Smock, historian and director 1990