Pierre Caliste Landry (April 19, 1841 – December 22, 1921) was an American slave who after the American Civil War became an attorney, Methodist Episcopal minister, and politician in Louisiana. He is best remembered for being elected in 1868 as mayor of Donaldsonville, the first African American to be elected to that position in the United States.
Pierre Caliste Landry was born into slavery in 1841 on the Prevost sugar cane plantation in Ascension Parish, the son of Marcelite Prevost, a slave and cook, and Roseman Landry, a white laborer. The plantation had one of the largest slave populations devoted to sugar in the state. Landry was sold at auction at age 13 to the Bringier family, which owned 35,000 acres on various plantations. He was likely purchased as the property of Louis Amedée Bringier, who was born on and had inherited the Hermitage Plantation in Ascension Parish (other Bringier plantations were located in St. James Parish). Landry was educated in the plantation primary and technical schools. He also was tutored by the ministers W.D. Goodman and A.L. Atkinson.
Landry married Amanda Grigsby, with whom he had twelve children. After her death, he married Florence Simpkins, and they had another two children. Many of their children continued their parents’ commitment to education and the church.
By the end of the Civil War, Landry had married. He moved with his family to Donaldsonville, Louisiana, known for having the third-largest black community in the state. At the time, many blacks were migrating from rural areas to towns to establish their own communities, trades and businesses.
Landry was elected mayor of Donaldsonville, Louisiana in 1868, where he had founded St. Peter’s Methodist Episcopal Church and become active in local community affairs on many levels. He served as a judge, superintendent of schools, tax collector, president of the police jury, parish school board, postmaster, and as justice of the peace.
He became influential in the Republican Party, establishing the Black Republicans faction and winning election to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1872 by a large margin. His bill was passed to establish New Orleans University, which became the third Black private college in Louisiana. In 1874, he was elected to the Louisiana State Senate, serving until 1880. The Reconstruction legislature approved public education and supported a variety of public welfare institutions.n 1878. He was elected presiding elder of the Baton Rouge District in 1881. Landry was then elected presiding elder of the Shreveport District in 1885, and in 1889 he became pastor of St Paul Methodist Episcopal Church in Shreveport. At the annual Methodist Episcopal conference in 1891 he was elected to the highest position in the Methodist Episcopal Church, a Presiding Elder of the South New Orleans District.
In 1878 Landry was called as minister of St. Peter’s Church. He became more involved in church affairs, and was elected presiding elder of the Baton Rouge District in 1881. Four years later, he was elected presiding elder of the Shreveport District, where he had moved. In 1889 he became pastor of St Paul Methodist Episcopal Church in Shreveport. He regularly attended the annual conferences of the church, and in 1891 was elected to its highest position, as a Presiding Elder of the South New Orleans District.
During this period following Reconstruction, white Democrats regained control of the Louisiana legislature, in part through physical violence and suppression of black voting by the White League and other militias. The legislature passed restrictive laws that created barriers to voter registration and voting by blacks. Their new constitution at the turn of the century essentially disfranchised black voters, a situation that they maintained into the 1960’s, prior to Congressional passage of civil rights legislation to enforce black citizens’ constitutional rights.