On Feb. 25, 1870, Hiram Revels was sworn into office as senator from Mississippi, becoming the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate.
In a white supremacist attempt to prevent Revels from assuming his elected position, his opponents argued that, despite having lived in the U.S. all his life, he could not be seated because the Senate required nine years of citizenship. The 14th Amendment making African Americans citizens had only passed two years earlier.
While in office, Revels first speech on the floor of the senate was in opposition to accepting Georgia back into the United States. Revels also spoke against segregated schools in Washington, D.C.
As of 2021, Revels is one of only 11 African Americans ever to have served in the United States Senate. African American Senators has a list of others who have served.
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.