In response to the political, social and economic turmoil in Texas and the South after the Civil War, the federal government enacted the Reconstruction Act on March 2, 1867. Many local and state officials were removed from office and a constitutional convention convened in 1868 with ten African Americans elected to serve. The 12th Legislature met in 1870-1871 and was composed of 14 elected African-American members. Amid struggles and violence, African-American legislators continued to serve Texas. Among them was Jacob E. Freeman who served as a representative from Waller, Fort Bend and Wharton counties.
Freeman was born a slave in Alabama around 1841 and came to Texas when he was eleven. He assisted his master in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and, by 1873, was a mechanic in the Hempstead area and had served on a Waller County grand jury. In July 1873, Freeman served on the Colored Men's Convention where attendees discussed political, civic and economic rights of minorities. As a member of the Republican Party, Freeman won a seat in the Texas House of Representatives in 1874 for the 14th Legislature where he served on the penitentiary committee. He was again elected to the 16th Legislature in 1879. In 1878, Freeman campaigned for the Greenback Party candidate for Governor, unsuccessfully ran for the legislature as
a People's Party candidate in 1886 and campaigned for a gubernatorial candidate in 1892. Jacob E. Freeman and other 19th century African-American legislators helped safeguard the rights of Texas and its black citizens against tremendous odds and a sometimes hostile political climate.