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Hiram Revels in Reconstruction

Hiram Revels (1822-1901) was the first black citizen to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Born to free parents in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Revels had to go to Indiana and Illinois to obtain an education. He became an African Methodist Episcopal church pastor and the principal of a school for blacks in Baltimore, Maryland.

After the Civil War began, Revels helped organize two volunteer regiments of blacks in the Union Army. In 1863 he served as a chaplain to a black regiment stationed in Mississippi. He settled there after the war and preached to a large congregation. In 1868, the military governor appointed Revels alderman and the next year he was elected to the state senate. Revels was a Republican, but he wanted to avoid friction with southern whites, so he supported legislation that would have allowed disenfranchised members of the former Confederacy to vote and hold office once again. In January 1870, he was elected to the United States Senate to fill the unexpired term of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. During his year in office, Revels advocated desegregation in the schools and on the railroads.

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