The Slave Who Went to Congress
In 1870 Benjamin Turner, who spent the first 40 years of his life as a slave, was elected to the U.S. Congress. He was the first African American from Alabama to earn that distinction. In a recreation of Turner's own words, based on speeches and other writings that Turner left behind, co-authors Marti S. Rosner and Frye Gaillard have crafted the story of a remarkable man who taught himself to read when he was young and began a lifetime quest for education and freedom. As a candidate for Congress, and then as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Turner rejected the idea of punishing his white neighbors who fought for the Confederacy?and thus for the continuation of slavery?believing they had suffered enough. At the same time, he supported the right to vote for former slaves, opposed a cotton tax that he thought was hurtful to small and especially black farmers, supported racially mixed schools, and argued that land should be set aside for former slaves so they could build a new life for themselves. In this bicentennial season for the state of Alabama, the authors celebrate the life of a man who rejected bitterness even as he pursued his own dreams. His is a story of determination and strength, the story of an American hero from the town of Selma, Alabama, who worked to make the world a better place for people of all races and backgrounds.