Benjamin S. Turner

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Benjamin Sterling Turner
Benjamin S. Turner - Brady-Handy.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1871 - March 3, 1873
Preceded byAlfred Buck
Succeeded byFrederick Bromberg
Personal details
Born(1825-03-17)March 17, 1825
Weldon, North Carolina, U.S.
DiedMarch 21, 1894(1894-03-21) (aged 69)
Selma, Alabama, U.S.
Political partyRepublican

Benjamin Sterling Turner (March 17, 1825 – March 21, 1894) was an American businessman and politician who served in the United States House of Representatives representing Alabama's 1st congressional district in the 42nd United States Congress.

Early life and education[edit]

Turner was born into slavery in Halifax County, North Carolina near the town of Weldon. His parents were slaves. He was taken with his mother to Alabama at age five, as part of the forced migration of the internal slave trade. Turner received no early education. By clandestine study he obtained a fair education. He seems to have remained enslaved until the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863.

Personal life and work[edit]

Turner engaged in mercantile pursuits and set up a livery stable in Selma, Alabama. In the 1870 Census, he reported an estate worth $10,000.[1] He joined the Republican Party after the Civil War and was elected tax collector of Dallas County, Alabama in 1867. He served as councilman of the city of Selma in 1869.

In 1857, Turner married an enslaved woman he loved deeply,[2] who bore him a son, Osceola. On December 2, 1872, Turner married Ella Todd; it is not known if the marriage produced children.[3]

Political career[edit]

Freedmen were granted voting rights after the Civil War. Turner was unanimously nominated to be the Republican candidate from Alabama's 1st congressional district, which at that point encompassed Southwest Alabama. He was elected as a Republican to the Forty-second Congress (March 4, 1871 - March 3, 1873). He complained that northern Republicans living in his district had not supported him enough in his run for office.[citation needed] In Congress he worked to restore political and legal rights to Confederates who had fought against the United States in the American Civil War.[citation needed] He also fought for the repeal of the tax on cotton, on the grounds that it hurt poor African Americans.[citation needed]

In 1872 Turner was nominated again by the Republican Party in the first district. But another African American, Philip Joseph, ran as an independent. This caused a split in the Republican vote, and allowed F. G. Bromberg, a fusion candidate of the Liberal Republicans and Democrats, to win.

Turner was elected in 1880 as a delegate to the Republican National Convention. After his political career, Turner engaged in agricultural pursuits in Alabama. He died in Selma, Alabama on March 21, 1894, aged 69; he was interred in Old Live Oak Cemetery.

See also[edit]


  • Christopher, Mayrine. America's Black Congressmen. Thomas Y. Crowell Company: New York, 1971. p. 124-127.
  • /james ciment, Atlas of African American History p. 97 b. turner, was born in Weldon, N.C. but was congressman from Selma, Ala.

External links[edit]

  • United States Congress. "Benjamin S. Turner (id: T000414)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 1st congressional district

1871 – 1873
Succeeded by