The First Colored Senator and Representatives, in the 41st and 42nd Congress of the US. Top standing left to right: Robert C. De Large, M.C. of S. Carolina; and Jefferson H. Long, M.C. of Georgia. Seated, left to right: U.S. Senator H.R. Revels of Mississippi; Benj. S. Turner, M.C. of Alabama; Josiah T. Walls, M.C. of Florida; Joseph H. Rainy, M.C. of S. Carolina; and R. Brown Elliot, M.C. of S. Carolina. Lithograph by Currier and Ives, 1872.
On February 25, 1870, exactly 143 years ago today, Hiram Rhoades Revels was sworn into the U.S. Senate, making him the first black person to ever sit in Congress. After the Reconstruction Act of 1867 was passed by a majority-Republican Congress, the South was divided into five military districts and all men, regardless of race were granted voting rights. Revels was elected by the Mississippi legislature, and seven black representatives were later elected for states like Alabama, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia thanks, in large part, to the support of African American voters.
Revels and some 15 other black men served in Congress during Reconstruction, and more than 600 served in state legislatures, while hundreds held local offices.
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