MONTGOMERY, AL - In 2009, Alabama Representative Alvin Holmes sponsored a resolution to honor 80 black state legislators from the Reconstruction period.
Holmes said many of the individuals had faded into obscurity after serving their terms in the Legislature.
"This is important, that when our great-great-grandchildren pass by, they can say 'These are the individuals who served during the Reconstruction period," he said.
Late last week, Governor Robert Bently spoke at the dedication of the historic marker unveiled at the state Capitol.
Bentley noted that many of the men on the plaque were born in slavery and made contributions to the state, including Horace King, an engineer and representative from Russell County who designed the spiral staircase in the old state Capitol.
"They served in a difficult time, not only in our nation's history but our state's history," Bentley said. "They served with leadership and we need to honor them."
Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Demopolis, the chairman of the House's Black Caucus, said the legislators blazed a trail for all of them.
"We look forward to what the Republicans on that plaque strove for, and the Democrats of today and the Republicans of today, I pray, strive for, one Alabama," he said.
A local paper reported blacks from 20 Alabama counties served in the Alabama Legislature from 1868 to 1879.
About a dozen black men were elected to the Legislature from Montgomery County during that time.
The black presence in the state Legislature began declining after 1874, when Democrats who ran on a platform of white supremacy regained control of the governor's mansion and legislature. The last black served in the Legislature in 1879; the state's 1901 constitution denied African-Americans the right to vote.
The Legislature would not have black members again until 1971.