Peter Jacob Carter is remembered as an excellent public speaker, who campaigned for Republican candidates throughout eastern Virginia during the 1870s and later in the 1880s after the Readjuster Party ceased to exist.
Carter was born into slavery in Eastville, Northampton County on May 29, 1845.
He joined Company B of the 10th United States Colored Troops in October 1863 and served in Virginia through the end of the Civil War and later in Texas before his discharge in May 1866.
Carter briefly attended Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University) before winning election to the House of Delegates in 1871. He was reelected three times and served for eight consecutive years, one of the longest tenures of any of the approximately 100 African American men who served in the General Assembly or in the postwar constitutional convention during the final three decades of the nineteenth century.
Early in the 1880s Carter and most other black men political leaders in Virginia took part in a bi-racial reform party known as the Readjusters, who refinanced the public debt, replaced a budget deficit with a surplus, and made major reforms in public education, including founding the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Virginia State University), of which Carter was the first rector.