George Fayerman (d. 1890)

George Fayerman represented Petersburg in the House of Delegates (1869–1871) for the first session in which African Americans could vote for its members. Born free, Fayerman settled in Petersburg after the American Civil War (1861–1865), and by 1867 he had become a leader in the city's Republican Party. When, in 1869, the party split into two factions, he won a seat in the House as a member of the radical wing. Fayerman pushed for African American political rights as a delegate but did not stand for reelection in 1871. Two years later he won the first of two terms on Petersburg's common council. In 1879 Fayerman aligned with the new Readjuster Party, and attended an 1881 convention in which most African Americans entered into a coalition with the new organization. In his later years he operated a livery stable and established a grocery. Fayerman died, possibly of consumption or typhoid fever, in 1890. MORE...

 

Early Years

Fayerman was born free, probably of mixed-race ancestry, about 1830 and was the son of Phoebe Fayerman and George Fayerman, who may have emigrated from Haiti. He identified Louisiana as his birthplace, but information attributable to his family suggests that he may have been born near Montego Bay, Jamaica, and that he may have arrived in the United States about 1865. He received some education and reportedly could converse in French as well as English.

Political Career

Having settled in Petersburg shortly after the Civil War, Fayerman began earning his living as a butcher and became active in local politics. On April 1, 1867, following the passage of congressional Reconstruction legislation placing Virginia under military rule, he and other black leaders organized the Republican Party in Petersburg. At a mass meeting called a week later to endorse the Reconstruction acts, he urged the 2,500 African Americans present to take their new voting rights seriously and to support the Republicans. On April 11, Fayerman called on a gathering of black Republicans to unite as a political party and not to disappoint the Northern men who had fought on their behalf. He was one of three men appointed secretary of the fractious Union Republican State Convention held in Richmond on April 17 and 18. The resulting party platform called for equal political and legal rights, more-equitable taxation, and a system of free public schools. Fayerman served as secretary of other Republican meetings, including one held in August 1867 to reorganize and shore up party harmony, and at the state convention held in May 1868.

In March 1869 Fayerman attended a two-day state convention in Petersburg at which delegates battled over the selection of the party's gubernatorial candidate and ultimately divided into camps of radical Republicans and moderate True Republicans. In the general election held on July 6, 1869, Fayerman ran a close second in a field of four candidates and was one of two men elected to represent Petersburg in the House of Delegates. The True Republican–Conservative coalition triumphed statewide, however, and in November 1869 Fayerman attended a convention of African Americans and radical whites who, in an unsuccessful attempt to have the recent election declared illegitimate, petitioned Congress to schedule new elections.

Fayerman withstood two challenges to his seat in the assembly, the second of which questioned his U.S. citizenship. At a short session that met in October, Fayerman voted to ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S Constitution as required by Congress before Virginia could be readmitted to the United States. During the two sessions that met in 1870 and in 1870–1871, Fayerman sat on the Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns. In 1870 the General Assembly approved a bill creating the state's first public school system. Fighting to secure their equal rights of citizenship, most of the African American delegates, including Fayerman, had attempted to strike out the requirement that schools be racially segregated. After their measure was overwhelmingly defeated, he joined other bold legislators in casting a symbolic vote against passage of the school bill that he almost certainly favored.

Fayerman introduced bills, petitions, and resolutions, including one requesting that the Committee for Courts of Justice be instructed to report a bill guaranteeing equal civil and political rights to all citizens. On March 28, 1871, Fayerman voted with the majority of Republicans and many Conservatives in favor of a bill that provided for the payment in full of the antebellum state debt, then totaling more than $47 million. The Funding Act proved disastrous and was later regarded as one of the state's most ill-advised pieces of economic legislation.

Fayerman did not stand for reelection in the autumn of 1871, and in October of that year he sustained severe injury when confronting an employee he suspected of stealing. In May 1873 he was elected to Petersburg's common council. Fayerman won again in 1874, but he did not attend council meetings regularly. In June 1875 the council resolved to declare his seat vacant and on July 1 accepted his resignation.

By 1879 Fayerman had aligned with the Readjusters, a coalition led by former Confederate general William Mahone that proposed to pay only a portion of the public debt while using the remaining funds to bolster public schools and provide other needed services. Fayerman attended a convention of black Virginians that met on March 14, 1881, in Petersburg. As a member of the Committee on Address, he helped draft the unanimously adopted resolution of support for the Readjusters. In August at the Republican State Convention in Lynchburg he sat on the Committee on Organization. After the Readjusters merged with the Republican Party in April 1884, Fayerman continued to attend party meetings and nominating conventions. In 1888 he followed Mahone's lead in opposing the successful congressional bid of John Mercer Langston, an African American Republican.

Later Years

On December 30, 1868, Fayerman married Roberta Branch, a native of Petersburg. They had two daughters and three sons, one of whom was the first graduate of the college department of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University). During the 1870s Fayerman operated a livery stable and by the 1880s had established a grocery. From at least 1883 until 1885 he also served as a gauger, or inspector, for the Internal Revenue Service. Fayerman died at his Petersburg residence on October 24, 1890, from an illness described variously as consumption and as typhoid fever. He was buried in Blandford Cemetery.

Time Line

  • ca. 1830 - George Fayerman is born free, possibly in Louisiana, possibly in Jamaica.
  • April 1, 1867 - George Fayerman and other black leaders organize the Republican Party in Petersburg.
  • April 8, 1867 - At a meeting to endorse the Reconstruction acts, George Fayerman urges 2,500 African Americans in Petersburg to vote and to vote Republican.
  • April 11, 1867 - George Fayerman calls on a gathering of black Republicans in Petersburg to unite as a political party and not disappoint the Northern men who fought on their behalf.
  • April 17–18, 1867 - George Fayerman serves as one of three secretaries to the Union Republican State Convention, in Richmond.
  • August 1867 - George Fayerman serves as secretary of a Republican meeting held to shore up party harmony.
  • May 1868 - George Fayerman serves as secretary of the Republican Party's state convention.
  • December 30, 1868 - George Fayerman and Roberta Branch, a native of Petersburg, marry. They will have two daughters and three sons.
  • March 1869 - George Fayerman attends a two-day state convention in Petersburg at which the Republican Party divides into camps of radical Republicans and moderate True Republicans.
  • July 6, 1869 - George Fayerman, a radical Republican, is elected to represent Petersburg in the House of Delegates.
  • October 1869 - George Fayerman votes to ratify the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
  • November 1869 - George Fayerman attends a convention of radical Republicans who petition Congress to schedule a new election after a coalition of True Republicans and Conservatives triumphs statewide.
  • 1870s - George Fayerman operates a livery stable in Petersburg.
  • March 28, 1871 - George Fayerman votes with the majority in favor of the Funding Act, a bill that provides for the payment in full of the antebellum state debt.
  • October 1871 - George Fayerman sustains a severe injury when confronting an employee he suspects of stealing. He does not stand for reelection to the House of Delegates.
  • March 1873 - George Fayerman is elected to Petersburg's common council.
  • 1874 - George Fayerman is reelected to Petersburg's common council, but he does not attend meetings regularly.
  • June 1875 - Petersburg's common council resolves to declare George Fayerman's seat vacant.
  • July 1, 1875 - George Fayerman resigns his seat on Petersburg's common council.
  • 1880s - By this time George Fayerman has established a grocery in Petersburg.
  • March 14, 1881 - George Fayerman attends the convention of African American Republicans in Petersburg to determine whether they should support the Readjuster Party.
  • 1883–1885 - George Fayerman serves as a gauger for the Internal Revenue Service.
  • April 1884 - The Republican and Readjuster parties formally merge, holding a joint state convention.
  • 1888 - George Fayerman, a Readjuster, follows his party leader by opposing the ultimately successful congressional bid of John Mercer Langston, an African American Republican.
  • October 24, 1890 - George Fayerman dies at his Petersburg residence, possibly from consumption or typhoid fever.

References

Further Reading
Henderson, William D. The Unredeemed City: Reconstruction in Petersburg, Virginia, 1865–1874. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1977.
Henderson, William D. Gilded Age City: Politics, Life and Labor in Petersburg, Virginia, 1874–1889. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1980.
Jackson, Luther Porter. Negro Office-Holders in Virginia, 1865–1895. Norfolk, Virginia: Guide Quality Press, 1945.
Moore, James Tice. Two Paths to the New South: The Virginia Debt Controversy, 1870–1883. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1974.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Gunter, D. W., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. George Fayerman (d. 1890). (2015, June 10). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Fayerman_George_d_1890.

  • MLA Citation:

    Gunter, Donald W. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "George Fayerman (d. 1890)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 10 Jun. 2015. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: April 27, 2015 | Last modified: June 10, 2015