George Washington Williams was Ohio’s first African-American legislator. He was a Civil War veteran and an ordained minister who took up the study of law while living in Cincinnati. He was also a historian who wrote the first comprehensive history of African Americans from their perspective, History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880: Negroes as Slaves, as Soldiers, and as Citizens.
Williams was elected to represent Hamilton County, serving one term in the House from 1880-1881. Afterward, he became a respected published historian and was engaged in the cause of civil justice. He contracted tuberculosis and died in Blackpool, England, in 1891, at the age of 41.
The George Washington Williams Memorial Room is located on the first floor of the Statehouse building. It honors Ohio’s first African American legislator. In addition to images of Mr. Williams, the 1880s style room features photographs of other African Americans who followed Williams, also serving in the legislature.
Other African Americans elected from the greater Cincinnati to the Ohio Legislature include William Copeland (1888-1889), George Henry Jackson (1892-1893), William H. Parham (1896-1897), A. Lee Beaty (1917-1920), Richard P. McClain (1935-1936), A. Bruce McClure (1951-1958), William F. Bowen (1967-1994), William Mallory (1967-1994), James W. Rankin (1971-1978), L. Helen Rankin (1978-1994), Janet Howard (1995-1998), Samuel Britton (1995-2002), Mark Mallory (1995-2005), Eric Kearney (2005-2014), Dale Mallory (2007-2014), Alicia Reese (2011-2019), Sedrick Denson (2019-present), Catherine Ingram (2019-present), and Cecil Thomas (2015-present).
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The First 28, graciously sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, celebrates Black Cincinnatians who were the first in their fields. Each day during Black History Month, we will celebrate athletes, artists, business leaders, civil rights activists, educators, physicians and politicians.
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