Hiram Revels Biography

Hiram Revels

Senator from Mississippi; first African American senator
Born: September 27, 1827
Birthplace: Fayetteville, N.C.

Born a free Black man, Revels worked as a barber and as a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. During the Civil War he helped recruit two regiments of African American troops in Maryland and served as the chaplain of a Black regiment. After the war he moved to Natchez, Miss., where he was elected an alderman (1868) and a Republican state senator (1870). In 1870 Revels was elected as the first African American member of the United States Senate. A few senators objected, arguing that Revels had not been a U.S. citizen for the nine years, a requirement for serving in the Senate--African Americans had only technically become citizens four years earlier, after the passage of the 1866 Civil Rights Act. But this ploy to keep him out of the Senate failed--the Senate voted 48 to 8 in favor of Revels. Revels served as senator from Feb. 25, 1870, to March 4, 1871. (His term was an abbreviated one because he was elected to complete the term vacated ten years earlier by Jefferson Davis, who left the Senate to become the president of the Confederacy.) After the Senate, Revels served as the president of a Black college and returned to the ministry.

Died: Jan. 16, 1901