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.