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Thu Feb 25, 2016, 05:10 PM

February 25, 1870 First African American Senator [View all]

February 25, 1870 First African American Senator

On February 25, 1870, visitors in the Senate galleries burst into applause as senator-elect Hiram Revels, a Republican from Mississippi, entered the chamber to take his oath of office. Those present knew that they were witnessing an event of great historical significance. Revels was about to become the first African American to serve in the Senate.
Born 42 years earlier to free black parents in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Revels became an educator and minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. During the Civil War, he helped form regiments of African American soldiers and established schools for freed slaves. After the war, Revels moved to Mississippi, where he won election to the state senate. In recognition of his hard work and leadership skills, his legislative colleagues elected him to one of Mississippi's vacant U.S. Senate seats as that state prepared to rejoin the Union.
Revels' credentials arrived in the Senate on February 23, 1870, and were immediately blocked by a few members who had no desire to see a black man serve in Congress. Masking their racist views, they argued that Revels had not been a U.S. citizen for the nine years required of all senators. In their distorted interpretation, black Americans had only become citizens with the passage of the 1866 Civil Rights Act, just four years earlier. Revels' supporters dismissed that statement, pointing out that he had been a voter many years earlier in Ohio and was therefore certainly a citizen.
Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner brought the debate to an end with a stirring speech. "The time has passed for argument. Nothing more need be said. For a long time it has been clear that colored persons must be senators." Then, by an overwhelming margin, the Senate voted 48 to 8 to seat Revels.

There are people worth remembering from our past. Hiram Revels is one of them.

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Agnosticsherbet Feb 2016 OP
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