Blanche Bruce was a remarkable man who rose from slavery to become the first Black person elected to a full term in the United States Senate. Born in 1841 on the Perkinson family plantation in Farmville, Virginia, Bruce was the son of a slave mother and his white owner, Pettis Perkinson. Despite being born into slavery, Bruce was fortunate enough to receive an education and was treated comparatively well by his owner.
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Bruce fled the south and attempted to join the Union army. However, he was rejected due to the army still being all-white at the time. He turned to teaching and eventually founded the first school for Black children in the state of Missouri.
After the war, Bruce moved to Mississippi as the Reconstruction Era began. He continued to focus on education for both Black and white children and became a wealthy landowner and influential political figure. In 1874, he was elected to represent Mississippi in the Senate, a position previously held by Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.
In the Senate, Bruce was a fierce advocate for the newly freed slaves and spoke out against the harsh treatment of indigenous Americans and Chinese immigrants. He also worked to improve the lives of Black people in Mississippi and across the country. Despite facing significant opposition from white supremacists, Bruce persevered and served a full term in the Senate.
After his term ended in 1880, white supremacists had retaken control of Mississippi, making it virtually impossible for Bruce to win a second term. He remained in Washington, D.C., working in a number of government positions and became the first Black person to receive votes for nomination to the vice-presidency, an office not held by a Black person until the 2020 election of Kamala Harris.
Blanche Bruce’s journey from slavery to the Senate is an inspiring story of resilience and determination. Despite the many obstacles he faced, he was able to overcome them and make a significant impact on the lives of Black people in the United States. His legacy as the first Black person elected to a full term in the Senate is a testament to his dedication to improving the lives of others and his belief in the importance of representation.
In addition to his political career, Bruce was also a successful businessman and owned several properties, including a cotton plantation in Mississippi. He was known for his intelligence and charisma, and was respected by both Black and white people for his dedication to improving the lives of those around him.
Bruce’s impact extended beyond his own time, as his work laid the foundation for future Black politicians and leaders. His efforts to improve the lives of Black people and his commitment to justice and equality are still relevant today and continue to inspire future generations.