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This Day in Georgia History

April 01, 1812

Tunis Campbell Born

Politician and abolitionist Tunis Campbell was born in Middlebrook, New Jersey. Campbell was a highly intelligent, well-educated African American who early on became an abolitionist after studying to be a missionary. Initially rejected for military service in the Civil War, Campbell finally served near the war’s end on Hilton Head Island, S.C. In 1865 he was appointed military governor of five of Georgia’s sea islands, where he provided schools for freed blacks and began implementing Sherman’s order distributing land to blacks. In 1867, Campbell was appointed a voting registrar and bought a plantation in McIntosh County, which he used as a home for freed blacks. In 1868, he was elected a delegate to Georgia’s constitutional convention. He was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1869, but was among the blacks expelled from the General Assembly on the grounds that Georgia’s constitution did not specifically allow blacks to hold public office. In Washington D.C., Campbell’s protest of his expulsion helped lead to a second phase of military reconstruction for Georgia. Campbell finally took his Georgia Senate seat in 1870 and was re-elected in 1871. But his militancy in advocating black rights had made him many enemies. Campbell was arrested in 1874 and spent the next few years as a leased convict. After being released in 1877, he and his family moved to Washington, D.C., then to Boston, where he became involved in missionary work. He died in Boston on Dec. 4, 1891.