Black history month 2020: The Liverpool lawyer who fought against the Ku Klux Klan


Robert Elliot was born in Liverpool in December 1842, the son of parents who had probably come to the city from the West Indies.

A black lawyer from Liverpool paved his way by traveling to America and becoming a congressman-before fighting the racist terrorist group Ku Klux Klan.

Robert Elliot was born in Liverpool and went to America, where he entered politics after the Civil War in South Carolina.

He was admitted to the bar in that state in 1868 and became a practicing lawyer in Colombia at the age of only 25.

After a period in the Royal Navy, he moved to America and settled in South Carolina just two years after the end of the Civil War.

He attended public school in London, studied law and graduated from Eton in 1859.

He soon became involved in politics, helped the local Republican Party and later became co-editor of a regional newspaper, the South Carolina Leader.

Around the same time, he made history by founding the first African-American law firm in the United States, Whipper, Elliott and Allen.

Robert was then elected to the National House of Representatives, received 60% of the vote and represented South Carolina in Washington.

He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives until 1868, shortly after he made history again by helping to form a state militia to fight the Ku Klux Klan as the first African-American leader of the National Guard of South Carolina.

As one of the first African Americans ever to be elected to the House of Representatives, his arrival caused quite a stir.

In Washington, Robert served in the “Committed on Education and Labor” and campaigned for civil rights. He also fought for the implementation of legal measures to curb the actions of the Ku Klux Klan.

When he first entered the hall of the house, Robert later said: “I will never forget it. . . I found myself at the center of attention. Everything was quiet.”

Speaking outside the house after a shocking incident in which the Ku Klux Klan broke into several prisons in South Carolina and lynched a group of African-American suspects, he said: “It is common for Democrats [newspapers]to stigmatize black people in the South as “in a semi-barbaric state”; but please tell me, who is the barbarian, the killer or the victim here? I hurl back into the teeth of those who make it into this most false and filthy slander”.

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His outspoken speeches for civil liberties and the rights of African Americans made him a hero among the black communities in America; his numerous speeches in front of the house were reported far and wide.

He became Attorney General of South Carolina in 1876, although he was forced out of office in 1877 after the Democrats took control of the state.

He returned to the legal profession and formed a new partnership, but retained his interest and involvement in politics. In 1880, he helped John Sherman with his presidential campaign and in the same year he participated as a delegate in the National Convention of the Republic.


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