Who Was Hiram Revels?


Image from New York Historical Society
2 days ago
On February 25, 1870, Hiram Rhodes Revels became first African-American member of the United States Senate.  His swearing in drew both large crowds and significant debate. Those who objected to his being sworn in claimed that Revels did not meet the constitutional requirement of having been a citizen for nine years. They claimed that blacks had only definitively gained citizenship through the passage of the 14th Amendment in 1868, and that prior to the amendment, blacks were not American citizens according to the Dred Scott case. The senators supporting Revels, however, argued that the Civil War and Reconstruction Amendments made it impossible to refer to any discriminatory ruling of an earlier era. Ultimately, the Senate voted to seat Revels by a wide margin: 48 to 8. Learn more.