Hiram Revels: A Featured Biography
Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the first African American senator in 1870. Born in North Carolina in 1827, Revels attended Knox College in Illinois and later served as minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland. He raised two black regiments during the Civil War and fought at the battle of Vicksburg in Mississippi. The Mississippi state legislature sent him to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate during Reconstruction, and he quickly became an outspoken opponent of racial segregation. Although Revels' term in the Senate lasted just a year, he broke new ground for African Americans in Congress.
Blanche K. Bruce: A Featured Biography
Born into slavery in 1841, Blanche K. Bruce spent his childhood years in Virginia and Missouri where he received his earliest education from the tutor hired to teach his master's son. At the dawn of the Civil War, Bruce fled to freedom in Kansas. After emancipation, he returned to Missouri and then Mississippi to pursue a career in education and politics. Elected to the Senate in 1874 by the Mississippi state legislature, he served from 1875 to 1881, becoming the first African American to preside over the Senate in 1879. In 2002, the Senate commissioned a new portrait of Bruce, now on display in the U.S. Capitol.
Edward Brooke: A Featured Biography
The first African American elected to the Senate by popular vote, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts served two full terms, from 1967 to 1979. Born in Washington, DC, in 1919, Brooke graduated from Howard University before serving in the United States Army during World War II. After the war, he received a law degree from Boston University, and became the first African American elected as a state's attorney general. During his Senate career he championed the causes of low-income housing and an increased minimum wage, and promoted commuter rail and mass transit systems. Senator Brooke worked tirelessly to promote racial equality in the South. He also integrated the Senate barbershop when he had his first haircut there after becoming a senator. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony on June 23, 2004, and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2008.
Carol Moseley Braun: A Featured Biography
Carol Moseley Braun served in the United States Senate from 1993 to 1999 as a Democrat from Illinois. Born in Chicago in 1947, Moseley Braun came of age in the midst of the civil rights movement and pursued a career in law. She became an Illinois state representative in 1977 and then served four years as Recorder of Deeds for Cook County, Illinois, the first African American elected to a Cook County executive position. In 1992 she defeated both the Democratic incumbent and the Republican challenger for a seat in the U.S. Senate, becoming the first female senator from Illinois and the first African American woman to serve in the Senate. As a senator, Moseley Braun sponsored progressive education bills and campaigned for gun control. In 1999, she became the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand, a position she held until 2001. Moseley Braun ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004.
Robert H. Ogle
Born in Washington, DC, in 1886, Robert H. Ogle was the first African American known to serve as a professional Senate committee staffer. Ogle was educated at the historic M Street School in Washington, DC, one of the nation’s first public high schools for African American youth. He entered Cornell University in 1905, and was among the first black students to attend the prestigious university. While attending Cornell, he was a co-founder of Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation’s oldest fraternity established for men of African descent. Senate records show that Ogle was originally hired in 1919 as a “laborer” for the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Francis E. Warren of Wyoming. His title was changed to “messenger” for the committee in 1921, and he was finally named an “additional clerk” in 1930.
The Kate Brown Story
In 1868 a Senate employee named Kate Brown suffered serious injuries when she was denied a seat in a railway car and forcefully ejected from the train—because she was African American. Her story gained the attention of Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner. A Senate committee investigated the incident, took testimony from witnesses, and reported in Brown’s favor. Kate Brown then sued the railway. When the Supreme Court for the District of Columbia ruled in her favor, the railway appealed the case with an argument that foreshadowed the “separate but equal” doctrine of later years. In 1873 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision, rejecting the company’s argument as “an ingenious attempt” to evade the law of its charter.