The First Black Lawmaker in the U.S. Senate

reconstruction_congress

The first black American lawmakers elected during Reconstruction. Hiram Revels (R-Mississippi) is on the extreme left.

I will soothe my temper regarding Oscar’s snobbery last night toward the film Lincoln by noting one of the most important yet least-appreciated  anniversaries in American political history. On this date in 1870, Hiram Rhodes Revels became the first black American elected to the U.S. Congress.  An African Methodist Episcopal minister and organizer of two regiments of “colored troops” during the U.S. Civil War, Revels was elected by a strictly party line vote in the Mississippi Legislature as a Republican senator during Reconstruction. He was the U.S. senator from Mississippi from 1870-1871 — the exact same Senate seat once held by Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy. Revels served with great distinction and achieved national recognition for his efforts to economically improve his state through federal support of railroad construction. After his term in the Senate, he became the first president of Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi. As in the case of most political strides made by black Americans during Reconstruction, the “redeemer” governments of Southern Democrats worked to prevent blacks from either voting or holding office through Jim Crow laws that lasted well into the 1960s. A black would not represent Mississippi in the U.S. Congress until 1987 when Mike Espy was elected to the House of Representatives by voters in his Congressional district.

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Filed under Commentary, History of the Declaration of Independence

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