Peter J. Carter (1845-1886) was born into slavery in Eastville, a town in Northampton County on the Eastern Shore. But Union soldiers took over the Shore and held it during most of the war, and in 1863, Carter escaped and joined the U.S. Colored Troops.
"Carter embodied the thousands of Virginians, black and white, who fought bravely and honorably to preserve the United States and yet won no memorial erected by state or locality," according to the 2018 report of Richmond's Monument Avenue Commission.
After the war, Carter settled in Northampton and raised a family.
With many votes from former slaves, Carter was elected to Virginia's House of Delegates in 1871 as a Republican, the party of assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. An excellent speaker, Carter served eight years, one of the longest stints among 19th-century African-Americans in the legislature.
Carter became rector of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University) in 1883. He died three years later.
"When people talk about Virginians supporting the Confederacy, they’re leaving out nearly half of the population of the state east of the Alleghenies — the Afro-Virginians," William & Mary's Ely noted. "Even the conservative, conciliatory black figure Booker T. Washington confirmed that African-Americans in Virginia hoped for a Union victory to be followed by emancipation.”