Paul M. Lucko

PHELPS, HENRY (ca. 1829–?). 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).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, Paul M. Lucko, "PHELPS, HENRY," accessed February 19, 2020,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...