The First African Americans to Serve in Congress

From 1870 to 1901, twenty-two African Americans served in Congress. Thirteen of these men had been born to enslaved mothers; all had some education and half had gone to college. H. R. (Hiram Rhoades) Revels of Mississippi, who in 1870 became the first black U.S. Senator, was born of free parents in North Carolina. Of the six representatives pictured here, Benjamin S. Turner of Alabama, Jefferson M. Long of Georgia, Robert C. De Large of South Carolina, and Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina were former slaves; Josiah T. Walls of Florida and R. Brown Elliot had been born to free parents. This group of congressmen served during the period of 1869 to 1872. Standing, left to right: Robert C. De Large, Jefferson M. Long. Seated, left to right: H. R. Revels, Benjamin S. Turner, Josiah T. Walls, Joseph H. Rainey, R. Brown Elliot.


The First Colored Senator and Representatives. In the 41st and 42nd Congress of the United States. Lithograph, 1872. New York: Published by Currier & Ives, 125 Nassau Street.
The New York Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division.


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