George Washington Albright (Marshall County)
State Senate: 1874-1879
Born: 1846 near Holly Springs, MS
According to his autobiography given to the WPA and the Daily Worker, Albright was born in 1846 near Holly Springs to parents enslaved by different owners; when he was 11 years old, his father was sold to Texas. His father was later killed at Vicksburg after escaping to join the Union army.
Albright was taught to read by his mother, who worked in the kitchen, listened to the white children doing their lessons, and picked up what she could to teach herself and her son. When he was 15, he became a runner for Lincoln’s Legal Loyal League, an underground network to spread news to other slaves.
Besides his work in the legislature, Albright was a prominent figure in education, helping to bring in teachers from the north and serving as trustee of the State Normal School. He also helped to organize a volunteer militia, for which he was targeted by the Ku Klux Klan.
On the 1870 census, Albright was living in Marshall County with his wife, Maria Hale (m. November 15, 1869), and their unnamed infant daughter. His occupation was recorded as “farmer.”
By the time of the 1880 census, Albright was living in Elmendaro, Kansas, with a second wife, Josephine Hardy, daughter Eliza ( presumably the infant from the 1870 census), and son Joseph Leroy Albright (1878-1932). Josephine is recorded as “mulatto” on this census, but she appears on subsequent census records as “white.”
Albright continued to be active in politics in Kansas. According to a September 2, 1882 article in the Emporia Daily News, he appeared at the Lyon County Republican convention. He is mentioned several times in the article, most notably: “G. W. Albright took the floor and ably advocated the cause of Col. Feighan, bringing down the house several times with loud and boisterous applause and laughter.” It also seems that he ran for state senator in 1884, though he withdrew to support another candidate.
By 1896, Albright had moved to Los Angeles, where newspapers refer to him as a “colored orator”; one article calls him the “Kansas Cyclone.” He appears on the 1910 census in Los Angeles with wife Josephine, daughter Crystal Frances Albright (1889-1990), and son Wendell Truman Phillips Albright (1891-1959).
On the 1920 census, Albright is listed as the proprietor of a rooming house in Pueblo, Colorado. He is recorded as married, though Josephine appears in Los Angeles with Crystal and Wendell on the 1920 census.
In 1930, Albright is still living in Pueblo, though he is listed as divorced and retired. Josephine is again listed in Los Angeles, this time with Joseph and Wendell. Josephine was still living with Wendell in Los Angeles on the 1940 census, on which George W. Albright does not appear.
“George Albright was a negro who was above an average in intelligence. He was a willing and eager tool in the hands of Gill, whose school he had attended. Whatever his political master ordered, George tried his utmost to carry out. He was a member of the state senate in 1874 and 1875, his name having been put on the ticket, it is said, at the instance of Mrs. Gill. George married one of Gill’s teachers, Josephine Hardy, a Northern white woman. He had a wife belonging to his own race, but he divorced her in order to marry the Hardy woman. (Footnote: It was stated by negroes at the time that Albright hired a negro man to force his wife into a compromising position so that he could have some reason for securing a divorce.) After their marriage, they went to Mt. Pleasant, where he was indicted by the Federal grand jury for selling whiskey. He was imprisoned and fined $100. After this they went to Chicago, where their conduct was so disgraceful that they were compelled to leave the city. (Footnote: This information was given by Mrs. L. A. Fant.) They then removed to Kansas. Nothing further is known of them.”
(Ruth Watkins, “Reconstruction in Marshall County,” Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, Volume 12, 1912)
Newspaper essay by Albright, printed in the Los Angeles Herald, October 31, 1898: