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PHOTO ESSAY

Blacks in Politics, Part 1

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Blanche Kelso Bruce, Frederick Douglass, and Hiram Rhoades Revels, 1881

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Reconstruction brought about a new era in the political lives of African Americans. The Fifteenth Amendment that extended voting rights to all African Americans was not passed until 1870 but the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 and 1868 required that black men be allowed to vote and by 1868 over 800,000 black Americans were registered to do so. In 1869, with the help of the newly established voting rights, the minister Hiram Rhoades Revels easily won election in the mostly black state of Mississippi and became the first African American senator. In an interesting twist of history, Revels completed the unexpired senatorial term of the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis. In 1875 Blanche Kelso Bruce was also elected senator of Mississippi and became the first African American to serve a full term in the senate. In this 1881 chromolithograph entitled "Heroes of the Colored Race" the African American leader Frederick Douglass is pictured with Blanche Kelso Bruce (left) and Hiram Rhoades Revels (right). Also shown are John Roy Lynch, Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Hayne Rainey, Charles E. Nash, John Brown, and Robert Smalls.

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