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New Bern church honors 19th century congressman with historic tour

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A local church is honoring the legacy of a local congressman who spent much of his career fighting for equality.

Elected from Craven County, George H. White is considered the last black congressman of the Reconstruction era.

People in New Bern often drive by the historic marker on Broad Street that mentions George H. White. But few are familiar with his impact on civil rights, which is something Robert Johnson, pastor at Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, is trying to fix.

"We decided the community need more than just going to the library and picking up a book and reading about him," said Johnson.

Elected in the late 19th century, George White served two terms in the state House of Representatives, often criticizing the prejudice blacks received in the South.

"He was a spokesman, a voice for those that could not speak for themselves," said Johnson.

White introduced the first anti-lynching bill in Congress, and he became principal of a black public school in New Bern. He founded Ebenezer Presbyterian Church on Bern Street 130 years ago.

"We are as a family very proud of the work that congressman George White did," said Julia White Green, George H. White's great, great niece.

The church honors White every year with a program. This year they're doing something special.

"We celebrate our first historic tour of George H. White day here," said Johnson.

The bus trip goes to five places, including George White's marker, his house, his church, and the church he founded, which burned down and was rebuilt on Bern Street.

Greenwood Cemetery is the last stop on the tour. Two of George White's wives and several of his children are buried there.

"This is the first I've heard about it, but it sounds like a good thing," said New Bern resident Sara Sanders.

After retiring from Congress, White moved to Pennsylvania. He is buried at Eden Cemetery.

The free historic tour begins Saturday at 12 noon at Ebenezer Presbyterian Church. The public is invited.

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