After the census of 1880, South Carolina won an additional two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, increasing from five to seven. The need for redistricting was seized upon by the state’s Democratic leaders as an opportunity to insure that enfranchised African Americans and the Republican Party were neutralized.
Governor Johnson Hagood called a special session for redistricting to begin on June 27, 1882. Reapportionment proceeded on the basis of the “Dibble Plan,” named for its author, U.S. Congressman Samuel Dibble of Orangeburg. Dibble’s intent was to pack as many African American voters as possible into one district so that Democrats could more easily win the other six. The plan created seven districts, one of which snaked across the state and included portions of nine different counties. The new Seventh District stretched from the Savannah River to Winyah Bay on the coast (excluding the city of Charleston) and from the Atlantic to the Sandhills nearly one hundred miles inland. Although the bill was protested by Republicans, it passed the General Assembly after little debate, and the special session adjourned on July 5.
African American voters possessed a numerical majority in five of the seven new districts, but this majority was overwhelming in the Seventh: of the 38,000 voters, 31,000 were African American. The segregation of black voters into the “Black” Seventh, as it came to be known, had the desired effect. The Democrats did not even field a candidate in that district in 1882, and a white Republican, Edmund Mackey, won the election. In 1886, however, Democrats began to contest the seat. The former slave and Republican George Washington Murray won in 1896 but lost in the following election. He was the last African American to represent South Carolina in Congress for nearly a century.