February 25 - WCMH: News, Weather, and Sports for Columbus, Ohio

February 25

 

February 25, 1870

Hiram Revels Becomes First Black U.S. Senator

On this date in 1870, two days after Mississippi was readmitted to the Union following the Civil War, Hiram Rhodes Revels was sworn in as a U.S. senator after being selected by the Mississippi legislature to complete a vacant term.Although he served only one year, Revel is remembered as the first African-American ever to serve in the Senate.

Rhodes was an educator and minister who had assisted in recruiting African-American soldiers to fight for the North during the war and served as a military chaplain during the siege of Vicksburg.

During his brief Senate tenure, he was outspoken in his opposition to racial segregation. (Direct election of senators by popular vote was not initiated until ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913. Until then, all senators were elected by state legislatures. It was not until 1966 that an African-American, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, was elected to the Senate by popular vote. He served two terms.)

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