The Black Man Who Replaced Jefferson Davis In The Senate

<a href="" rel="nofollow">Hiram Rhodes Revels</a>, the first African-American
Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African-American to serve in the U.S. Congress. (Photo by Mathew Brady and Levin C. Handy).

In late January 1870 a tall, heavy-set man in his late forties, black but of light complexion, strode purposefully into the corridors of the U.S. Capitol. He wore white gloves, a dignified long black coat, and matching pants and vest, and he carried a dark walking stick. His home state, Mississippi, had recently held a constitutional convention similar to South Carolina’s, and was in the process of gaining readmission to the Union. At the time (and until 1913), U.S. senators were not popularly elected but were selected by the state legislature. When Mississippi’s had convened, its black members had demanded that one of the state’s three open Senate terms go to a black man. Now Hiram Rhodes Revels, a minister and the state’s newly appointed senator, had arrived to claim his seat.

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