February 25, 1870
First Black U.S. Senator Is Sworn In
Posted Feb 1, 2008 10:58 AM CST
By George Hodak
Hiram R. Revels was born a free man in 1827 in Fayetteville, N.C. An ordained minister, he attended Knox College in Illinois before settling in Baltimore, where he worked as a pastor and school principal.
During the Civil War, Revels helped form two black Union regiments in Maryland. At war’s end, he moved to Natchez, Miss., and, with the onset of Reconstruction, became an alderman and state senator.
In 1870, Revels was elected to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated nine years earlier by Confederate leader Jefferson B. Davis. Sixteen blacks, including one other senator from Mississippi, Blanche K. Bruce, served in Congress during Reconstruction.
Black participation in post-bellum Southern politics all but ended after 1877, when Republicans relinquished control of the region to ensure Rutherford B. Hayes’ election as president. Not until 1966 would another black, Massachusetts Republican Edward W. Brooke III, be elected to the Senate.