History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives

Rediscovering Rainey's Reign

It’s unclear what prompted Representative Luke Poland of Vermont to leave the rostrum that day and yield the gavel, as the 43rd Congress (1873–1875) debated an Indian appropriations bill. But what is clear is that he set in motion a series of events that seemed the very culmination of the Civil War. When Poland stepped down, Joseph Hayne Rainey of South Carolina—a former slave who had once been impressed into service by the Confederacy before escaping to Bermuda—mounted the Speaker’s rostrum, grasped the gavel, and set Capitol Hill abuzz.

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Edition for Educators—Supreme Court

This edition for educators highlights some of the shared history and personalities that have shaped the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court. Beginning with the Judiciary Act of 1789, which established the court, and the selection of Continental Congress Member, John Jay, as the first Chief Justice, these co-equal branches of government have a unique history.

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Categories: Education, Institution

Edition for Educators - Women in Congress in their Own Words

The history of women who served in Congress is one shaped by changes in American society and in the House. In celebration of Women’s History Month, we invite you to learn more about these Members in their own words.

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"You've Won Your Way Into Our Hearts"

Tucked away in a corner of the L-shaped Republican Cloakroom reserved for Members of Congress, a hard-working, modest woman ran a cramped lunch counter. Part of a world built upon power and influence, Helen Sewell did not use her position for political gain, but focused instead on caring for the people she considered family for more than 70 years.

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Black Americans in Congress in their Own Words

Since 1870, more than 130 African Americans have served in the House. Some, like Joseph Rainey of South Carolina or Adam Clayton Powell of New York, left an enduring mark on the institution through historic firsts and groundbreaking legislation.

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(Congress)Men without Hats

British traveler Henry B. Fearon cast a critical gaze from the House Gallery across the frothy sea of nearly 200 Representatives of the 15th Congress (1817-1819). "Spitting boxes are placed at the feet of each member, and, contrary to the practices of the [Senate], members and visitors wear their hats."

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