The first African-American senator and representative – Hiram Revels of Mississippi and Joseph Rainey of South Carolina respectively – arrived on Capitol Hill in 1870.
Their arrival would rank among the great paradoxes in American history. Why? Southern slave owners a decade earlier held those same seats in Congress.
The career of an African-American in Congress has seen remarkable changes since Revels and Rainey.
“Throughout African-American history in Congress, Members viewed themselves as “surrogate” representatives for the black community nationwide rather than just within the borders of their individual districts or states,” according to a publication on history.house.gov titled Black Americans in Congress.
African-American members who won election during the 19th century, such as Robert Elliott of South Carolina and George White of North Carolina, embodied these roles.
It was not after the ratification of the 15th Amendment did the first blacks serve in the U.S congress in 1870. During that time, black men in all former confederate states were now allowed to vote.
The blacks at the time became the Republicans, the party that eventually fought and abolished slavery and for their equal rights.
Face2Face Africa in this article looks at the first seven blacks to serve as U.S congressmen.