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Phelps, Henry (ca. 1829–unknown)

Paul M. Lucko Biography

Henry Phelps, politician, was born a slave in Virginia around 1829. He worked as a sharecropper and could neither read nor write, according to the 1870 federal census report. Phelps was living in Fort Bend County by 1869, when he became a charter member of the Union League of the county. The same year, he served as a member of the board of appeals that supervised voter registration and determined election results for Fort Bend. In 1872 voters from Wharton, Austin, and Fort Bend counties elected Phelps as a Republican to the Texas House of Representatives for the Thirteenth Legislature. He sat on the Roads, Bridges, and Ferries and the Penitentiary committees and introduced a bill designed to prohibit racial discrimination among railroad passengers. After completing his term in the legislature, Phelps worked as an inspector of hides for Fort Bend County. The 1870 federal census reported that he had two children and a wife named Maria. Phelps did not appear in later census reports for Fort Bend County.

J. Mason Brewer, Negro Legislators of Texas and Their Descendants (Dallas: Mathis, 1935; 2d ed., Austin: Jenkins, 1970). Merline Pitre, Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: The Black Leadership of Texas, 1868–1900 (Austin: Eakin, 1985).


  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Politics and Government

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Paul M. Lucko, “Phelps, Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 23, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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