Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was denied his elected seat in the US Sen¬ ate in 1873, though he was easily one of the most highly respected men of the era. He grew up in Macon, Georgia, and when his father, a white planter, died, his mother and siblings were denied any money from his estate. To help support his family, Pinchback went to work on the Mississippi riverboats.
He joined the Union Army at the start of the Civil War and was sent to recruit African-American soldiers, which he did until the army’s discriminatory practices led him to quit. A great idealist, Pinchback took on the issues of universal suffrage, free public schools, and civil rights for all Americans. He joined the Republican Par¬ ty in Louisiana, was elected to the State Senate in 1868, and founded his newspaper, The New Orleans Louisianian, in 1870.
Pinchback was elected lieutenant gover¬ nor in 1871, and when Governor Henry Clay Warmoth was impeached, Pinchback was acting governor until he was replaced in January, 1873. In the same year, he was elected congressman-at-large and US Sena¬ tor.
The elections were immediately contest¬ ed, and Pinchback stood to defend himself: “….Several Senators…think me a very bad man….I am bad because I have dared on sev¬ eral important occasions to have an indepen¬ dent opinion. I am bad because I have dared at all times to advocate and insist on exact and equal justice to all mankind….”
Though his eloquence was breathtaking and his argument sound, P.B.S. Pinchback was never granted his seat in the Senate.Challenged and defeated by a senate vote of 32 to 29, P.B.S. Pinchback left politics perma¬ nently and returned to jour¬ nalism. In 1875, he became chairman of the Convention of Colored Newspaper Men in Cincinnati.
Speaking with great authority, he reminded African-Americans of the power they could wield as a coalition: “With this force as a political element, as labor¬ ers, producers and con¬ sumers, we are an element of strength and wealth too pow¬ erful to be ignored….”
Pinchback’s leadership at the convention was one of the prime ingredients in the formation of the Associated Negro Press. He continued until the end of his life to influence the greatest people working in the fields of poli¬ tics and the media.