Hiram Rhoades Revels (American National Biography)

Kenneth H. Williams, "Revels, Hiram Rhoades," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00839.html.
The nation's first African-American senator arrived in Washington ten days after his election. He could not present his credentials until Mississippi was formally readmitted to the Union, which finally took place on 23 February [1870]. Three days of contentious debate over whether to seat Revels followed, with the Senate voting forty-eight to eight in favor of accepting his credentials on 25 February. Revels was then sworn in and seated.

Although his brief Senate term was relatively undistinguished, Revels's skill as an orator, honed through decades in the pulpit, earned favorable attention from the national press. He introduced three bills, but only one passed--a petition for the removal of civil and political disabilities from an ex-Confederate. He favored amnesty for white southerners "just as fast as they give evidence of having become loyal men and of being loyal," a stance that drew criticism from some in the black community. Revels served briefly on the District of Columbia Committee and nominated the first African American for enrollment at West Point (the candidate failed the entrance examination).
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