Richard Harvey Cain

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Date: 1936
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Biography
Length: 584 words
Content Level: (Level 4)
Lexile Measure: 1180L

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About this Person
Born: 1825 in Virginia, United States
Died: 1887
Nationality: American
Other Names: Cain, Richard H.
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Cain, Richard Harvey (Apr. 12, 1825 - Jan. 18, 1887), negro clergyman and politician, was born of free parents in Greenbrier County, Va., and remained there throughout his boyhood. His parents then moved to Ohio, first to Portsmouth and later to Cincinnati. There he had some opportunity to ground himself in the common school branches. Like so many enterprising negroes of that day, he entered upon the steamboat service on the Ohio River. This was a much more lucrative employment at that time than years later because, prior to the development of the railroad and Pullman service, the sort of travel preferred by the rich and aristocratic was by way of steamboat. Cain began the serious work of his life after he was converted in 1841. Upon moving to Hannibal, Mo., in 1844, he was licensed to preach by the Rev. William Jackson of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Returning to Cincinnati soon after, and dissatisfied with the conditions then obtaining in the Methodist Episcopal Church, he joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was then assigned a church at Muscatine, Iowa, and was ordained deacon by Bishop W. P. Quinn in 1859, but, feeling the need of more learning, he temporarily abandoned the work to study for a year at Wilberforce University. In 1861 he was transferred to the New York Conference to serve four years in Brooklyn. He was ordained elder by Bishop Payne in Washington in 1862. Three years later he was sent to the South Carolina Conference where he had the opportunity to extend the influence of his church and to take the initiative in the reconstruction of the religious work among the freedmen in that state. In this field, he was not only a minister, but rendered valuable service also in the publication of a newspaper entitled the Missionary Record.

Being in South Carolina at the time when the enfranchised negroes together with their white friends controlled the politics of the state, Cain was quickly sought to represent them in politics. He was a member of the constitutional convention of 1868 which revised the fundamental law along liberal lines. He next served two years as state senator from the Charleston district. In 1872 he was elected to represent South Carolina in the Forty-third Congress. He was elected also to the Forty-fifth Congress. As a member of that body, he not only manifested interest in those measures which peculiarly concerned the freedmen, but took an active part in all matters pertaining to the general welfare of the country. To eliminate fraud from South Carolina, he joined with others in the organization of the Honest Government League. To keep the federal government out of the mire of corruption, he spoke and wrote fearlessly in behalf of clean politics. In spite of the vituperation and recrimination with which the atmosphere was charged in the conflict of the Reconstructionists and their opponents, he was generally referred to, even by his enemies, as an upright and honest man who deserved the good will of all citizens.

Upon the elimination of the negro from politics, Cain devoted himself altogether to the work of the church. He was elected bishop in 1880 and was assigned to the Louisiana and Texas diocese. There he had not only the religious work to direct but that of education, as it centered in Paul Quinn College of which he became president. Throughout his career, he made the impression of a man of clear vision, good judgment, strong resolution, and firm convictions.


[Wm. J. Simmons, Men of Mark (1887), pp. 866-71; A. A. Taylor, The Negro in S. C. During the Reconstruction (1924), passim; Jour. of Negro Hist., Apr. 1922, July, Oct. 1924; A.M.E.Ch.Rev., Apr. 1887; L. G. Tyler, Encyc. of Va. Biog. (1915), vol. III.]

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Gale Document Number: GALE|BT2310016601