“American Phoenix” (1852-1918)
Last African-American Congressman of the Reconstruction Era.
Only black member of the 55th Congress.
Attorney and founding member of Whitesboro, NJ.
Recognizing that economic power would be the path to equality for Black Americans, Republican Congressman George Henry White embarked upon an effort to create self-sufficiency and financial growth for his race.
White believed that success was possible when all people were allowed "an even chance in the race of life."
But when his home state of North Carolina instituted literacy tests for black voters, White realized that people of color would not have an equal opportunity there.
So, after leaving congress in 1901, he decided to start anew in the North.
From Washington, he moved to Philadelphia where he continued his law work, moving his family there in 1906.
He now saw that economic empowerment of Black citizens would be the most urgent task, so he began creating institutions to help them attain success.
In Philadelphia, White established the People's Savings Bank in 1906, the City's first black-owned commercial bank, which helped the black community start businesses, save for education, and finance land purchases.
But that was only the start.
His dream and vision of a model community where black families could
own land, build businesses, be independent farmers, and educate their children was realized with the establishment of the town of Whitesboro, New Jersey.
This town where we live within Middle Township, NJ is George White's most enduring legacy.
During his post congressional career George Henry White served as honorary trustee for Howard University; was on the Board of Berean Manual Training Institute; and was also a trustee of North Carolina's Biddle University.
He also served on the Board of Directors of Frederick Douglas Hospital and as a Director of the Home for the Protection of Colored Women.
An early leader in the NAACP, he stayed active in politics, and became Assistant City Solicitor for Philadelphia in 1917.
On December 28, 1918, George Henry White died in his sleep after a life of public service.
He was interred in Philadelphia's Eden Cemetery - joined later by George Jr., a Pittsburgh attorney, and daughter Mamie, Whitesboro's first schoolteacher.