Joseph H. Rainey served in the South Carolina Senate (1868-1870), and in 1870, he became the first African American to serve in the United States House of Representatives. He was elected to four consecutive terms, but was defeated by a white Democratic candidate in 1878. Rainey was an active member of Congress.
Rainey was an ardent supporter of civil rights for African Americans, Native Americans, the Chinese in California, and supported removing political disabilities from white Southerners. The Joseph H. Rainey House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1984.