Norris Wright Cuney was born in 1846, in the slave quarters of Sunnyside Plantation near Hempstead, to Anglo planter Philip Cuney and one of his slaves, Adeline Stuart. His father sent Norris Cuney to Pittsburg, Pa., to attend a school for African American students, but Cuney left the school following the Civil War. He worked a variety of odd jobs, including stints as a riverboat worker, before returning to Galveston.
In Texas, Cuney grew into a national leader, giving Texas’ African Americans a voice in both state and national politics. He was appointed inspector of customs for Galveston in 1872, and became the first African American to serve as a Galveston alderman when elected to that position in 1883. Cuney chaired the Republican State Convention in 1882 and was a delegate in every national convention from 1876 to 1892. U.S. President Benjamin Harrison appointed Cuney collector of customs in 1889.
Norris Wright Cuney Historical Marker