Matthew Gaines

Matthew Gaines (1840-1900) was a black senator and Baptist preacher. He was born to a slave mother on a Louisiana plantation. He learned to read by candlelight from books stolen for him by a white boy who lived on the same plantation.

Gaines escaped to freedom twice, but each time was caught and returned to slavery. His first escape came after 1850, when he was sold to a man from Louisiana and was hired out as a laborer on a steamboat. Using a false pass, he escaped to Arkansas. Six months later he moved to New Orleans. He was caught there and brought back to his master. He was later sold to a Texas planter and in 1863 Gains made another attempt to escape. He was headed for Mexico, but only made it to Fort McKavett before he was caught by the Texas Rangers. He was returned to his slave owner. As a slave, he worked as a blacksmith and a sheepherder. After Emancipation, he settled in Washington County and soon became a leader in the black community, both as a minister and a politician. He was elected as a senator during Reconstruction and represented the Sixteenth District in the Texas legislature.

Gaines worked hard for the rights and interests of African Americans. Among the many issues he addressed were education, prison reform, the protection of blacks at the polls, the election of blacks to public office, and tenant-farming reform. Gaines sponsored a bill that called for tax exemptions for educational and religious groups that worked toward improving education. The bill became law on June 12, 1871.

Gaines was responsible for the passage of a bill authorizing his district to charge a special tax for constructing a jail. He also worked for the passing of the Militia Bill, protecting blacks from the Fifteenth Amendment. Gaines was elected to a six-year term to the Texas Senate, but he lost his seat after four years due to false legal charges.

Source: Matthew Gaines
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