March 16

March 16, 1870 –  Hiram Rhodes Revels

Hiram Rhodes Revels - Brady-Handy-(restored)

Senator Hiram Rhodes Revels

On March 16, 1870, United States Senator Hiram Rhodes Revels representing Mississippi became the first African American to make a speech in the senate. During this first speech by an African American, Revels argued for the rights of fellow African American legislators who had been illegally taken out of the assembly by members of the white Democratic party of Georgia.   Revels had become the first African American to be sworn into United States Senate just three weeks earlier on February 25, 1870. He served as a Republican representing the state of Mississippi from February 25, 1870 until March 3, 1871. Revels was born on September 27, 1827 in Fayetteville, North Carolina to free African Americans. He worked as an ordained Methodist minister and served as a high school principal in Baltimore, Maryland.

First Colored Senator and Representatives

English: “First African American Senator and Representatives in the 41st and 42nd Congress of the United States.” (Left to right) Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi, Representatives Benjamin Turner of Alabama, Robert DeLarge of South Carolina, Josiah Walls of Florida, Jefferson Long of Georgia, Joseph Rainey and Robert B. Elliot of South Carolina.

Revels began his political career after moving to Mississippi after the end of the civil war.  It was there that he was elected to the state senate. While serving in the state legislature in Mississippi, he was elected by his peers to feel a vacant United States Senate seat.  Upon arriving in Washington, DC, there was much debate among U.S. Senators about Revels serving as a senator, he was seated on February 25, 1870 by a sweeping vote of 48 to 8.  Upon leaving the senate after a little over a year, Revels returned to Mississippi where he would become president of Alcorn College.  He died on January 16, 1901 in Aberdeen, Mississippi at age 73.