(Dec. 25, 1834-Nov. 6, 1892). African American politician and legislator, James Hinton was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, to free parents. By 1848, the Hinton family moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, where James attended a subscription school and worked part-time as a barber. At age 16, he furthered his education at a Quaker school in Hartford (Vigo County), Indiana. Upon graduation, he enrolled in a course of collegiate training at the Greenville Institute in Greenville, Ohio.

During the Civil War, Hinton went to Massachusetts to recruit for the 54th and 55th United States Colored Troops. When he returned to Indiana in 1863, he was commissioned to the rank of second lieutenant to recruit for the 28th Regiment U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) Camp Fremont in Indianapolis.

His political career got underway in the postwar period. Extensive involvement with the Masonic lodge and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, before and after the war, gained him notoriety and caused him to be a much-sought-after public speaker.

The Republican Party, anxious for Black votes, enlisted him to speak at campaign rallies. He was elected as a delegate-at-large to the 1872 Republican national convention. His appointment as trustee of Indiana’s Wabash and Erie Canal Fund from 1873 to 1877 made him the first African American to hold an Indiana state office. In 1880 he reached the height of his political career, being elected for one term to the Indiana House of Representatives. He was Indiana’s first African American legislator.

Remaining a faithful and staunch GOP supporter, James Hinton collapsed and died moments after delivering a speech in Brazil, Indiana, during the 1892 Republican campaign.

Revised April 2021

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