RAPIER, James Thomas | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesA freeborn Alabamian educated in Canada, James Thomas Rapier fended off death threats from the Ku Klux Klan, rose to the top of the state Republican Party, and won a seat in the 43rd Congress (1873–1875). Rapier was one of seven black Representatives who fought for the passage of the major Civil Rights Bill of 1875. “Mr. Speaker,” he declared on the House Floor, “nothing short of a complete acknowledgement of my manhood will satisfy me.”1 James Thomas Rapier was born in Florence, Alabama, on November 13, 1837, to John H. and Susan Rapier. He had three older brothers: Richard, John, Jr., and Henry. The Rapiers were wealthy and well established in Florence. John Rapier, Sr., was a freed slave who had a lucrative business as a barber for 40 years.2 Susan Rapier was a freeborn mulatto from Baltimore, Maryland, who died in 1841 during childbirth.3 Five–year–old James Rapier and his brother, John, Jr., went to live with their paternal grandmother, Sally Thomas. Supported by his grandmother’s work as a cleaning woman, James Rapier attended a secret school for black children from 1854 to 1856 but also spent a great deal of time drinking and gambling on riverboats.4 Disappointed with his son’s behavior, in 1856 John Rapier, Sr., sent him to live with another family member in the experimental black community of Buxton, Ontario, Canada. While living in Buxton, which was inhabited entirely by fugitive slaves, Rapier experienced a religious conversion and decided to devote his life to helping his race. He later attended a normal school in Toronto, earning a teaching certificate in 1863, and returned to Buxton as an instructor.5 After following the events of the Civil War from Canada, Rapier returned to Nashville in late 1864. There he worked briefly as a reporter for a northern newspaper. With his father’s help, he purchased 200 acres of land in Maury County, Tennessee, and, over time, became a successful cotton planter. A self–described loner, he never married.6 The end of the Civil War provided Rapier opportunities in politics. His first political experience was a keynote address at the Tennessee Negro Suffrage Convention in Nashville in 1865. His father’s illness and his own disillusionment with the restoration of former Confederates to power in the state government prompted Rapier’s return to Florence, where he rented 550 acres along the Tennessee River. His continued success as a planter allowed him to hire black tenant farmers. He also financed sharecroppers with low–interest loans. In March 1867, when freedmen could vote in Alabama, he called a local meeting to elect a black registrar. His father, John Rapier, Sr., won the election, and James Rapier was unanimously chosen to represent the county at the Alabama Republican convention. James Rapier served as the convention’s vice chairman and directed the platform committee. Although he sought equality among the races, Rapier emerged as a moderate politician. He did not ignore the fears of white Alabamians, and, consequently, opposed the total disfranchisement of former Confederates and the redistribution of seized land. Rapier recognized that a political alliance between Republican whites and blacks—though fragile—was necessary for the party’s success in Alabama.7 In October 1867, he served as a delegate to the Alabama constitutional convention, where he advanced the Republican platform as the only black man representing his district. Rapier traveled to Washington, DC, in 1869 to attend the founding convention of the National Negro Labor Union (NNLU). The union organized to protect black laborers, to help sharecroppers, and to improve educational and economic opportunities for freedmen. The NNLU chose Rapier as its vice president in 1870. He opened an Alabama branch in 1871, serving as president and executive chairman, and attended three more national conferences throughout his career. Rapier’s increased name recognition allowed him to secure the Republican nomination for secretary of state in 1870. The first black man to run for statewide office in Alabama, he lost the position primarily because white Republicans remained uneasy about a black candidate.8 Rapier was appointed as a federal internal revenue assessor with the assistance of black Alabama Representative Benjamin Turner.9 By the early 1870s, Rapier was one of the most powerful black politicians in the state. In August 1872, Alabama Republican Party leaders determined it would be nearly impossible to persuade native–born white Alabamians to vote for an African American in the upcoming congressional elections.10 Although constituents from a district representing the state’s southeastern corner did not favor carpetbaggers, incumbent Charles Buckley, originally from New York, maintained a strong base among conservatives. Furthermore, Buckley represented a district in which freedmen were a minority, making up 44 percent of the population.11 Defying party leaders, Rapier sought the district’s Republican nomination. He used his recently founded newspaper, the Montgomery Republican State Sentinel (the state’s first black–owned and –operated news source), to crusade for the Republican Party, freedmen’s rights, and the re–election of President Ulysses S. Grant over Liberal Republican Horace Greeley.12 Rapier hoped his newspaper would improve communication between the races in Alabama and campaigned on the promise that he would represent equally voters in his district, regardless of their race.13 At a late–summer convention, Rapier easily gained the Republican nomination, receiving 25 delegate votes to Buckley’s five.14 In the general election, Rapier faced Democrat and Liberal Republican candidate William C. Oates, an ex–Confederate with a debilitating war wound. Rapier tirelessly traversed the district, speaking in 36 towns in as many days. He espoused his equal rights platform before the crowds and promised to support national legislation providing land for tenant farmers.15 Congressionally enacted federal enforcement acts (the Ku Klux Klan bills) temporarily quelled Klan violence, making for a peaceful election.16 Rapier defeated Oates with 19,397 votes (55 percent), becoming Alabama’s second black Representative in Congress.17 Heading to Washington, Rapier exuded confidence, declaring, “No man in the state wields more influence than I.”18 Before the 43rd Congress convened in late 1873, he traveled to Vienna, Austria, as Alabama’s commissioner to the Fifth International Exposition. Rapier noted that once he stepped onto foreign soil, “distinctions on account of my color ceased.”19 In the 43rd Congress, Rapier soon earned a reputation as a prudent and diplomatic legislator. Though a forceful and outstanding orator, he rarely embellished his speeches with rhetorical flourishes. An observer in the gallery noted, “Mr. Rapier is an insatiable reader, which does not make him, fortunately, less original in expression of his own ideas.… He is a plain, forcible speaker.”20 Rapier’s first act as a Representative, on January 5, 1874, was to introduce legislation designating Montgomery, Alabama, a federal customs collection site. The passage of the measure, which would boost the city’s economy, was considered Rapier’s greatest legislative achievement, and President Grant signed the bill into law on June 20, 1874. Rapier’s subsequent attempts to gain federal funding for improvement projects in Alabama were less successful, and he became involved in economic debates that usually divided along sectional lines. Rapier voted in favor of railroad regulation and called for increased currency circulation, promoting economic conditions favorable to the agrarian south and west. These debates signaled a significant split between southern and northern Republicans that proved damaging in future national elections.21Rapier’s experience as a teacher and a labor organizer earned him a position on the Committee on Education and Labor, but he focused his first term on advancing the controversial Civil Rights Bill. Rapier hosted strategy meetings in his Washington home in an attempt to pass the longstanding bill, which sought equal accommodations on public transportation and in lodging as well as equal education for blacks and whites. On June 9, 1874, Rapier spoke on the House Floor in favor of the bill, largely recounting his personal experiences with discrimination.22 Deeply disappointed with the eviscerated final measure that came before the House at the end of the 43rd Congress, Rapier, along with the other Alabama Republicans, voted nevertheless in its favor. The measure passed 162 to 99.23 The Civil Rights Bill had not yet come to a vote in July 1874 when Rapier returned to Alabama in anticipation of a close re–election contest. Divisions among southeastern Alabama Republicans were his greatest obstacle. Earlier that year, two factions split over the case of a federal judge credited with enforcing laws against the Ku Klux Klan. Rapier refused to take sides, yet most of his supporters allied themselves with the judge. Meanwhile, emboldened by state and federal ambivalence, the Klan attained new power in Alabama. As the election approached, one conservative Democratic newspaper said, “We will accept no result but that of blood.”24 White Alabama Democrats then proceeded to launch a campaign of economic coercion: Major business owners refused to hire black men or anyone who swore allegiance to the Republican Party.25 Rapier approached the mounting opposition by running an aggressive campaign. He attempted to assuage white fears about the Civil Rights Bill by maintaining that the legislation did not require integrated schools or social equality but merely gave blacks equal opportunity and funding.26 He traversed the state in a fashion reminiscent of his 1872 campaign, though threats from the Ku Klux Klan often disrupted his itinerary.27 Rapier’s pleas to federal authorities to ensure a peaceful election, including a personal telegram to U.S. Attorney General George H. Williams, went unanswered.28 In the chaos that ensued, more than 100 people were killed and scores of black voters stayed away from the polls.29 With the freedmen’s vote eliminated, Conservative Democrats swept the elections, taking two–thirds of the state offices. Attorney and former Confederate Army Major Jeremiah Williams edged out Rapier, taking 20,180 votes (51 percent) to Rapier’s 19,124. Rapier contested the election, without success, in the new Democratic House.30 In 1876, Rapier moved to Lowndes County near Montgomery to run for a congressional seat for the only remaining district with a black majority (65 percent) after gerrymandering by the Democratic state legislature.31 Rapier defeated incumbent black Representative Jeremiah Haralson in the primary election, and Haralson subsequently ran in the general election as an Independent. While both Rapier and Haralson advocated civil rights, voter protection, and increased leadership roles for freedmen, their personalities were drastically different: Haralson was outspoken, brash, and rhetorical, whereas Rapier was prudent and polished.32 The two men split the black vote—Haralson won 8,675 votes (34 percent) and Rapier won 7,236 (28 percent)—handing the election to white Democrat Charles Shelley, who emerged with 9,655 votes (38 percent).33 For his service, the Republican Party rewarded Rapier with an appointment as a collector for the Internal Revenue Service in July 1878. That same year, Rapier transformed the Republican Sentinel into the Haynesville Times and began a call for black emigration to the West—a movement he supported financially and by testifying before a Senate committee. In 1882 and 1883, Rapier fended off attempts by political enemies to remove him from his post as a collector, but failing health forced him to resign. He was appointed a disbursing officer for a federal building in Montgomery just before he died of pulmonary tuberculosis on May 31, 1883.
10 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR SELF-CONFIDENCE THROUGH CONSISTENCY - Healthy American MaleReaching your goals isn’t about being the person who wakes up the earliest. It’s not about toiling away at your goals all day and beating yourself up about your progress. No, reaching your goals and improving your self-confidence is about being consistent. Each day you should commit to a small chunk of your goals and complete this small chunk. As you show up every day for your goals and dreams, you will see them start to come to life. Just lay down one brick and eventually, the entire house will be built. Here are some advantages you can get when you decide to consistently focus on three things. MAINTAIN WILLPOWER When you add consistency to your life, this allows you to keep your willpower because when you place the things you want to accomplish into your day, you do not have to make any decision on whether or not you are going to do them. You just do them. A lot of the time, deciding if you feel like doing something, saps a lot of your willpower, and so you may end up not completing this task. Save your willpower and commit to these three goals. BECOME AN EXPERT When you lack consistency, this can wear on your self-confidence because you remain an amateur. As you add these items to your life, over time you will steadily see your progress. Eventually, with repeated practice, you will go from a beginner to an intermediate to an expert. And, as you have built a consistent pattern, you will only grow more adept at this activity. PUT IN MORE EFFORT Consistency saves willpower. With this extra willpower, you may have more energy to give more than you would normally. Others may notice your ambitious attitude and look to you as a reliable, confident person, who knows what he wants. This can give you a lot of brownie points in whatever circle you are in, which can lead to long-term connections. BOOST CREATIVITY When you are set on consistency, you may have to find many creative ways to keep these activities in your life. Everyday life gets in the way and can easily push you away from these activities that you are set on doing consistently. Whether you have to stay up late or wake up earlier, you can boost your creativity by finding new ways to keep these activities in your daily routine. MORE SELF-ESTEEM When you stick with activities, rather than giving up after a short time, this boosts your self-esteem. You learn that you are a person who can pursue something for a long time. This helps you see your potential and you get the pleasure of seeing your progress. As you add more consistency in your life, you can enjoy the feeling of truly being able to say, “I’m not a quitter.” CHANGE YOUR VIEW OF YOURSELF Often, being consistent in one area pushes you to be consistent in other areas. Staying with a few activities over the long term can lead to a different mindset where you are a consistent person. As your mindset changes, you may learn that you have always had the ability to live a steady life, but did not know how to get started. BETTER RELATIONSHIPS As you stick with a few areas, your family and friends may take notice of your hard work and consistency. This can lead to positive interactions with them as they see you taking charge of your life. You may be the person who inspires them to change their lives and pursue their dreams. But if that doesn’t happen, you can still improve your reputation and self-image through consistent study. The goal is to change yourself. When you feel better about yourself, you can cultivate better relationships with others. GREAT GAINS IN THESE AREAS It’s always better to do more, not less. As you do more in these areas, you will become better at these activities. Increased practice and consistency makes this inevitable. Each day you show up and do these activities you have decided to place in your daily life, you are setting yourself up to become an expert. This can lead to a big boost in both your skills and self-esteem. If 10,000 hours is what is needed to master a subject, you are well on your way when you choose to be consistent. ENHANCE YOUR OVERALL LIFE Not only will consistency improve these few areas that you have chosen, but it will also enhance other areas. You may also keep your home cleaner, take your dog out for more walks, or play with your children on a regular basis. When you are committed to a few activities no matter what, this can increase your self-love. These small daily routines (30 minutes or an hour), though the duration depends on you, can help you see yourself in a positive light. REMOVE SHAME AND GUILT When you don’t live up to the expectations you set for yourself, you may feel a lot of shame and guilt. You may constantly—dare I say, consistently—put yourself down. Not sticking to activities can make you feel as if you are unable to keep at these activities. As you incorporate a few items into your life, consistently, these feelings of shame and guilt will fade because you are becoming the successful and consistent person you would like to be. Your barometer for success is your own. When you begin to consistently reach those goals, you will become a successful person and reap the rewards of your hard work and consistency. The road can be long when you are first starting out, but sticking to an endeavor is an excellent way to prove that you can commit to something.