10 groundbreaking Black politicians you've probably never heard of

Most people know about the 13th Amendment and the Civil Rights Movement, but what about the individuals who won smaller, but vital, victories for representation along the way?

THE FIRST COLORED SENATOR AND REPRESENTATIVES
THE FIRST COLORED SENATOR AND REPRESENTATIVES / Historical/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
4 of 11
Next
Hiram Rhoades Revels
Hiram Rhoades Revels / Historical/GettyImages

Hiram Revels

Just after the end of the Civil War, there was a boom in political activity by Black Americans. This came from their newfound right to vote and the restrictions on suffrage for former Confederates. Thanks to these conditions, Hiram Revels was the first Black man to become a US Senator, an achievement which made him the subject of the Senate Historical Office's first blog post.

Revels was born as a free man in North Carolina, which gave him the ability to get educated. He became a minister in 1845 and helped those who were escaping slavery. Over the course of the Civil War, he organized Black regiments and created schools for those who had been recently freed.

His political career advanced rapidly, moving from alderman of Natchez, Mississippi to Senator in just a handful of years. When Mississippi attempted to return to the Union, Revels was chosen to become one of the two new Senators, taking the spot that had previously been held by Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

His place in the Senate was immediately challenged, but the Senate decided, in a 48-8 vote, that he deserved to take his seat. While his term only lasted around a year, he frequently argued for better access to education and government for Black men. Along with Blanche K. Bruce, he was the only Black Senator until 1967.