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“The House of Representatives, in some respects, I think, is the most peculiar assemblage in the world,” Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois once observed. Behind the legislation and procedure, House Members and staff have produced their own institutional history and heritage. Our blog, Whereas: Stories from the People’s House, tells their stories.

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Displaying 1–12 of 403 results

Fast and Furious: Danville Drift

In 1909 Congress appropriated money specifically to purchase automobiles for the President; only months later, it considered providing the Speaker and the Vice President with similar funding. But not every Member believed the government should spend public money on what would essentially be a private car, and not every Member wanted to give Joe Cannon such a generous perk.
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Edition for Educators—Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina

For Black History Month, this Edition for Educators celebrates the life and career of Representative Joseph Hayne Rainey.
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Starring Hazel Scott as Herself

Hazel Scott and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. on the Cover of Jet
Civil rights, Congress, and the performances of jazz pianist Hazel Scott coincided in the late 1940s and early 1950s. “I’ve been brash all my life, and it’s gotten me into a lot of trouble,” Scott said. “But at the same time, speaking out has sustained me and given meaning to my life.”
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Thanking the Troops

When the first cannon shots of the Civil War landed on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861, the Abraham Lincoln administration confronted a rebellion against the United States and an urgent security problem in the nation’s capital. When Virginia seceded from the Union on April 17, only the Potomac River separated Washington from the hostile ambitions of the Confederacy. In those anxious April days the city was—in President Lincoln’s own words—“put into a condition of siege.”
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Edition for Educators—Impeachment

In response to many reference inquiries received about the history of impeachment, this Edition for Educators highlights some of the resources available on the History, Art & Archives website.
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Edition for Educators—Opening Day

Each Opening Day in the House of Representatives is an exciting, often historic, event. Recently elected Members, often accompanied by their families, swear their oaths of office and snap pictures with new colleagues and congressional leaders. Special furniture and House artifacts are brought out of storage for an event that happens only once every two years. This Edition for Educators throws the House Chamber doors wide open for Opening Day!
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Best of the Blog in 2020

This year, the Office of the Historian and the Office of Art and Archives published 44 blog posts on a range of topics, including congressional nicknames, stamp collecting, the apportionment process, and the 1870 election of Joseph Hayne Rainey, the first Black Member of the House of Representatives. As we reflect on a tumultuous and difficult year, we’ve selected eight of our favorite and most discussed posts for readers to revisit.

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Categories: Announcements

Joseph Rainey and Reconstruction’s Promise

On December 12, 1870, newspapers across the nation heralded the swearing in of Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina as the first African-American Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Rainey not only represented his South Carolina district. He also represented, he said, “the outraged and oppressed negro population of this country, those I may strictly call my constituency.”
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The Parliamentarian’s Scrapbook

Detail View of the Parliamentarian's Scrapbook
The Parliamentarian's index finger rests on one precise spot in his scrapbook of precedents—the important reference file of a man known for his influence.
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“The Bulwark of Freedom”: African-American Members of Congress and the Constitution During Reconstruction

On December 9, 1873, the National Civil Rights Convention drew several hundred African-American activists to Washington, DC. Attendees recognized that gains had been made in the Black struggle for equality during Reconstruction, but called on Congress to pass sweeping civil rights legislation, noting that recent “declarations recognizing our entitlement to all of our rights, with essential ones withheld, render the grievances even more intolerable.”
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Congress and the Case of the Faithless Elector

On January 6, 1969, Representative James O’Hara of Michigan took a seat on the House Floor for what seemed like a routine day of business. Since the late nineteenth century, the Electoral College count had occurred every four years without incident. This year, however, would be different.
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“By Any Fair Means”: Joseph H. Rainey’s Contested Elections

Joseph Rainey Certificate of Election
When Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina served in the House of Representatives from 1870 to 1879 as its first Black Representative, the political inroads made during Reconstruction by Blacks in the South started to disintegrate rapidly. The contested election was weaponized as a method of excluding African Americans from representation in Congress.
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