Edward D. Bland

Edward David Bland (1848–1927)

Edward David Bland served three terms in the House of Delegates and played a role in maintaining the volatile coalition between the Republicans and Readjusters. Bland was born a slave and eventually settled in Prince George County as a shoemaker. Known for his speaking, he became involved in local Republican politics. He advocated the alliance between his party and the Readjusters, and he ran for the General Assembly in 1879 with nomination of the former and de facto backing of the latter. The unwieldy partnership dominated Virginia politics for four years, and Bland won reelection in 1881 and again in 1883 even though a white supremacy campaign helped cause the Readjusters to collapse. He declined reelection for a fourth term, but remained a Republican organizer in the area. He died on his farm in Prince George County in 1927. In 1954, a housing project in Hopewell was named in his honor. MORE...

 

Early Years

Bland was born in October 1848, the son of Frederick Bland and Nancy Yates Bland. He was born a slave, probably in Dinwiddie County. After the American Civil War (1861–1865) the family resided in Petersburg, where his father was a shoemaker and a preacher, although apparently never the pastor of his own church. Bland learned the shoemaker's trade working with his father and probably also attended one of the local night schools organized by northerners for blacks. On December 18, 1872, he married Nancy Jones, of Petersburg. Their nine children included two sons and four daughters who survived him.

Political Career

About 1874 Bland and his wife moved to City Point in Prince George County, where he worked as a shoemaker. Using oratorical skills, Bland became involved in local politics. During the 1870s the issue of how to deal with Virginia's huge public debt divided the Democratic Party into Funders, who insisted that the debt be paid in full, and Readjusters, led by William Mahone. Bland was one of those African American Republicans who advocated an alliance with the white Readjusters. On October 3, 1879, a mass meeting of black Republicans in Petersburg divided on that question, and those favoring the Readjusters withdrew to hold their own meeting, at which Bland delivered one of the speeches.

The Readjusters in Prince George organized on October 9 without naming their own candidate to represent Prince George and Surry counties in the House of Delegates. Instead, they threw their support to Bland, the Republican candidate. Meanwhile the Funders unsuccessfully tried to nominate several men before Robert E. Bland, the white incumbent, finally agreed to run less than a week before the election.

On October 17, 1879, E. D. Bland joined Mahone and others on the speaker's platform at a Readjuster barbecue in Prince George County. Three days later county Republicans, disgruntled by Bland's Readjuster apostasy, called for his removal as the party's nominee. Bland marshaled his supporters for the meeting that ensued at the courthouse on October 29. Amid so much confusion and crowding that a voice vote could not be taken, everyone went outside to line up for or against Bland. So many men went to his side that his opponents did not bother to form ranks.

Bland and the other ten African American Republicans elected to the House of Delegates in 1879 held the balance of power between the Funders and Readjusters. Their votes gave the Readjusters control of the legislature and sent Mahone to the U.S. Senate, but the coalition remained shaky. White Readjusters failed to back measures that the blacks introduced, and they, in turn, remained loyal to the national Republican Party. Bland served on the Committees on Executive Expenditures and on Schools and Colleges.

In 1880 Bland was a delegate to the Virginia Republican Party convention and supported the party's national candidates rather than Mahone's slate of uncommitted electors. Needing votes from blacks to carry the next year's legislative elections, Mahone promised federal patronage positions and support for legislation in return for a coalition. Bland was one of the leaders who met on March 14, 1881, in Petersburg to endorse the Readjusters, and he easily won reelection in November. He served on the Committees on Agriculture and Mining, on Claims, and on Retrenchment and Economy. During the session of 1881–1882 blacks obtained legislation creating a state-supported college and an insane asylum for African Americans as well as improved funding for their public schools. Conservatives responded in 1883 with a blatant white supremacy campaign through which they regained control of the General Assembly, although Bland won reelection for a third term. He was appointed to the influential Committee on Propositions and Grievances and the less consequential Committees on Enrolled Bills and on Officers and Offices at the Capitol. Bland also benefited from Mahone's control of federal patronage in Virginia and worked for a time as a gauger, assessing the tax on whiskey and other goods, for the Internal Revenue Service at City Point.

Bland stepped down after the regular legislative session of 1883–1884. Surry County Republicans made known their desire to have one of their own as the party's next nominee, and he accordingly gave way to William Faulcon. Bland did not retire from politics, however. On September 30, 1885, he complained to William Mahone about the inaction of Republicans in a neighboring district, contrasting it with his own well-organized district, in which he spoke somewhere every night. Bland contemplated another run for the legislature in 1887. On September 6 of that year he requested Mahone's support but promised to step aside if Mahone preferred another man. Goodman Brown, of Surry County, became the party's successful candidate that year. Possibly disenchanted by this snub, Bland supported John Mercer Langston against Mahone's candidate in the 1888 congressional election. By then white Democrats were intent on eliminating blacks from Virginia politics, a process that culminated in the disfranchisement measures of the Constitution of 1902.

Later Years

Bland continued to live in Prince George County and moved from City Point to a farm about the turn of the century. He suffered from chronic nephritis during his last years and died on February 13, 1927. Because the local church had recently burned, his large funeral took place at Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg, and he was buried at Providence Cemetery, since renamed People's Memorial Cemetery, in that city. A housing project in Hopewell, opened in December 1954, was named the Edward D. Bland Courts in his memory.

Time Line

  • October 1848 - Edward David Bland is born enslaved, probably in Dinwiddie County, the son of Frederick Bland and Nancy Yates Bland.
  • December 18, 1872 - Edward David Bland marries Nancy Jones, of Petersburg.
  • October 3, 1879 - Attendees of a mass meeting of black Republicans in Petersburg divide on whether to ally with the Readjuster Party. Those favoring the Readjusters withdraw to hold their own meeting.
  • October 9, 1879 - The Readjuster Party in Prince George County organizes without naming its candidate to represent Prince George and Surry counties in the House of Delegates. Instead, members support Edward David Bland, the Republican candidate.
  • October 17, 1879 - Edward David Bland joins William Mahone and others on the speaker's platform at a Readjuster Party barbecue in Prince George County.
  • October 20, 1879 - Prince George County Republicans, upset that their House of Delegates candidate, Edward David Bland, appeared at a Readjuster Party barbecue, call for his removal from the ticket.
  • October 29, 1879 - A meeting of Prince George County Republicans ends in support of Edward David Bland, the party's candidate for House of Delegates. Some members had called for his removal when he appeared at a Readjuster Party barbecue.
  • November 1879 - Edward David Bland, a Republican, defeats the incumbent, Robert E. Bland, to represent Prince George and Surry counties in the House of Delegates.
  • 1880 - Edward David Bland serves as a delegate to the Virginia Republican Party convention and supports the party's national candidates rather than William Mahone's slate of uncommitted electors.
  • November 1881 - Edward David Bland wins reelection the House of Delegates representing Prince George and Surry counties. His is part of the Readjuster Party coalition.
  • November 1883 - Edward David Bland wins election to a third term in the House of Delegates representing Prince George and Surry counties.
  • September 30, 1885 - Edward David Bland, Republican member of the House of Delegates from Prince George and Surry counties, complains to William Mahone about the inaction of Republicans in a neighboring district, contrasting it with his own well-organized district.
  • September 6, 1887 - Edward David Bland requests William Mahone's support in his run for a fourth term as a member of the House of Delegates representing Prince George and Surry counties. Mahone prefers another man, Goodman Brown, of Surry County, and Bland does not run.
  • February 13, 1927 - Edward David Bland dies on his farm in Prince George County. He is buried at Providence Cemetery (later People's Memorial Cemetery).
  • December 1954 - A housing project in Hopewell opens and is named Edward D. Bland Courts in honor of Edward David Bland, an African American member of the House of Delegates after the Civil War.
Further Reading
Jackson, Luther Porter. Negro Office-Holders in Virginia, 1865–1895. Norfolk, Virginia: Guide Quality Press, 1945.
Kneebone, John T. "Bland, Edward David." In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 2, edited by Sara B. Bearss, et al., 6–7. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2001.
Moore, James T. "Black Militancy in Readjuster Virginia." Journal of Southern History 41 no. 2 (May 1975): 167–186.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Kneebone, J. T., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Edward David Bland (1848–1927). (2013, July 18). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Bland_Edward_David_1848-1927.

  • MLA Citation:

    Kneebone, John T. and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Edward David Bland (1848–1927)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 18 Jul. 2013. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: June 17, 2013 | Last modified: July 18, 2013


Contributed by John T. Kneebone and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. John T. Kneebone is associate professor and chair of the history department at Virginia Commonwealth University.