Running against Caleb S. Hunt, Menard secured approximately 64 percent of the vote, and on 3 November 1868 became the first African-American person to be elected to the United States Congress.

In October 1921 Harding travelled to Alabama. Here he expressed his support for anti-lynching laws that would hold counties responsible for the illegal hangings, and lodge federal murder cases against the participants.

In the wake of the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, and the killing of unarmed black teen Matthew Johnson by police the following year, the two men established the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.