Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
RAPIER, James Thomas (1837-1883)

RAPIER, JAMES THOMAS, a Representative from Alabama; born a free black in Florence, Lauderdale County, Ala., November 13, 1837; educated by private tutors in Alabama and studied in Canada; studied law and was admitted to the bar; taught school; returned to the South and traveled as a correspondent for a northern newspaper; became a cotton planter in Alabama in 1865; appointed a notary public by the Governor of Alabama in 1866; member of the first Republican convention held in Alabama and was one of the committee that framed the platform; member of the State constitutional convention at Montgomery in 1867; unsuccessful candidate for secretary of state in 1870; appointed assessor of internal revenue in 1871; appointed State commissioner to the Vienna Exposition by the Governor of Alabama in 1873; commissioner on the part of the United States to the World's Fair in Paris; elected as a Republican to the Forty-third Congress (March 4, 1873-March 3, 1875); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1874 to the Forty-fourth Congress; appointed collector of internal revenue for the second district of Alabama on August 8, 1878, and served until his death in Montgomery, Ala., May 31, 1883; interment in Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis, Mo.

Alabama Department of Archives and History
Montgomery, AL
Papers: In the Eugene Feldman papers, 1856-1978, 0.66 cubic foot.
The papers collected by Eugene Feldman consist of photocopied letters written to the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 1882 in an effort to prevent (unsuccessfully) James T. Rapier’s dismissal as an U.S. Revenue Tax Collector in the 2nd District of Alabama. Most of the original letters appear to be in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. There is a small collection of letters (photocopies), 1856-1857 from James T. Rapier to his brother, John H. Rapier. The papers also contain drafts of an article Feldman wrote on James T. Rapier, as well as the notes that he took in preparation for the article.

Atlanta History Center
Kenan Research Center
Atlanta, GA
Papers: In the Clarence Bacote papers, 1936-1980, 1 linear foot.
Persons represented include James T. Rapier.

Howard University
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
Washington, DC
Papers: In the Rapier Family papers, 1836-1883, 2 linear feet.
Correspondence of James Thomas Rapier (1839-1884), US Representative from Alabama, John Rapier, Sr., John Rapier, Jr., Richard Rapier, Henry R. Thomas, James P. Thomas, and Sarah Thomas; diary (dating from 1857) of John H. Rapier, journalist, surgeon, and world traveler, containing cash accounts, clippings, and indications of letters written and received; and a Rapier autobiography.

  • Feldman, Eugene Pieter Romayn. Black Power in Old Alabama: The Life and Stirring Times of James T. Rapier, Afro-American Congressman from Alabama, 1839-1883. Chicago: Museum of African American History, 1968.
  • ___. "James T. Rapier--1839-1884." Negro History Bulletin 20 (December 1956): 62-66.
  • ___. "James T. Rapier, Negro Congressman from Alabama." Phylon 19 (Winter 1958): 417-23.
  • Freeman, Thomas J. "The Life of James T. Rapier." Master's thesis, Auburn University, 1959.
  • "James Thomas Rapier" in Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U.S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008.
  • Schweninger, Loren. James T. Rapier and Reconstruction. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978.
  • ___. "James Rapier and the Negro Labor Movement, 1869-1872." Alabama Review 28 (July 1975): 185-201.
  • ___. "Rapier, James Thomas." In Dictionary of American Negro Biography, edited by Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1982.
  • Walton, Norman W. "James T. Rapier: Congressman from Alabama." Negro History Bulletin 30 (November 1967): 6-10.