This Day in History

Oct. 19, 1870: First African Americans Elected to the House of Representatives

Time Periods: Reconstruction Period: 1865 - 1876
Themes: African American, Democracy & Citizenship, Laws & Citizen Rights, Reconstruction

On Oct. 19, 1870 the first African Americans were elected to the House of Representatives.

Black Republicans won three of the four congressional seats in South Carolina: Joseph H. Rainey, Robert C. Delarge, and Robert B. Elliott. (Hiram Revels had been elected in 1869 and seated in 1870 to the Senate.)

Senator Hiram R. Revels and Representatives Benjamin S. Turner, Josiah T. Walls, Joseph H. Rainey, Robert Brown Elliot, Robert D. De Large, and Jefferson H. Long. Source: Library of Congress.

The Reconstruction era of the United States is one the most important yet mis-represented (or ignored) periods in U.S. history.

Though often overlooked in classrooms across the country, Reconstruction was a period where the impossible suddenly became possible.

For lessons and resources, visit the #TeachReconstruction campaign to teach outside the textbook.


Learn more in the Zinn Education Project national report, “Erasing the Black Freedom Struggle: How State Standards Fail to Teach the Truth About Reconstruction,” and find teaching resources on Reconstruction below.