Since it is Black History Month, this month’s patriot highlight goes to the first Black senator, Republican Hiram Rhodes Revels.
Revels was born free in South Carolina on September 27, 1827. Though he apprenticed as barber, he went to seminary where he studied theology. He began a career as a Methodist pastor and evangelist where he served in both the North and the South. During the Civil War, he served as a chaplain for Union regiments of color.
During Reconstruction, he traveled to Mississippi where the US Senate seat was absent. The state legislator appointed him to finish his predecessor’s term. Prior to his swearing in, Democrats tried to block his appointment, but his appointment was successful thanks to the Republican Party.
Despite the harsh treatment of slaves by the Democrat slave owners, he advocated for amnesty for Southerners on the condition they swore loyalty to the United States of America. He served on the Committee of the District of Columbia. During his brief tenure, he advocated for equality for blacks and whites. He spoke against an amendment from Democrat Senator Allen G. Thurman of Ohio that would keep Washington, DC schools segregated.
He resigned from his post with two months left in his tenure to serve as the president of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (a historically Black school). He served there until his retirement in 1882 (though he was dismissed briefly due to a political dispute, but was quickly reappointed).
Throughout his tenure as a senator and time as a college president, he continued to minister the Gospel throughout the North and the South, even becoming an editor of the Methodist newspaper.
He passed away on January 16, 1901 while attending a Christian conference. He was buried in Holly Springs, Mississippi.
It is evident that it is the belief of Christian people in this country and in all other enlightened portions of the world that as a nation, we have passed through a severe ordeal – that severe judgments have been poured out upon us on account of the manner in which a poor, oppressed race was treated in this country. -Hiram Rhodes Revels