Alfred Fairfax – First Black State Legislator

Alfred Fairfax

Alfred Fairfax

Alfred Fairfax was a Civil War veteran and the first African American elected to a state legislature.

He was born a slaver in Loudon County, Virginia but was reportedly sold after he tried to escape. He was then moved to Louisiana just before the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1862 he escaped and joined the Union Army, where he learned to read. After the war, Fairfax became active in politics and became a minister. In fact, he was so involved in Louisiana politics that he was elected to Congress in 1878; however, he wasn’t able to take office as Democratic mobs forced him to flee. As southern white men fought for control during Reconstruction, Fairfax began to look elsewhere for a better place to live.

Like numerous other “freedmen,” Reverend Fairfax chose Kansas, which provided much “hope” for those fleeing oppression in the south. Though they didn’t find a “Utopia” in Kansas, they did find more freedom and less resistance from their Kansas neighbors. Fairfax soon gathered up some 200 families, and in 1880, they began to make the trek to Kansas, most of whom settling in Chautauqua County. Fairfax established the Little Coney Colony, obtained a 200-acre farm, raised cotton and other farm products, operated his own cotton gin, and became the New Hope Baptist Church pastor in nearby Parsons. Little Coney Colony was incorporated in 1881 and was called home to about 56 families.

Exodusters En Route to Kansas, Harper's Weekly 1879

Exodusters En Route to Kansas, Harper’s Weekly 1879.

Fairfax achieved political distinction in 1888 when he was elected to represent Chautauqua County in the Kansas State Legislature. Although he served only one term, he was the Chairman of the House Committee on Immigration, worked to repeal the segregation provisions of the 1879 Kansas school statute, and introduced a bill that provided all children equal access to Kansas Public Schools. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass. During his short tenure, he received much praise from both the white and black press. In return for his hard work, he asked: “that the great state of Kansas, the glorious leader of every reform, shall not take a backward step by continuing to legalize distinction and discrimination against a loyal, brave and true race even though their faces be dark.”


Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated October 2021.

Also See:

Exodusters of Kansas

Free-State Kansas

Kansas Home Page

People of Kansas