January 20th, 1870

Southern Democrats Declare Election of First African American to U.S. Congress Null and Void; Force Re-Vote

On January 20, 1870, Hiram Rhodes Revels was elected to the U.S. Senate. He would become the first African American to serve in the United States Congress. Revels was elected in Mississippi to fill the vacancy left after the state’s secession from the Union prior to the Civil War.

However, immediately upon Revels’ arrival in Washington, Southern Democrats determined to block his seating to the U.S. Congress. The Democrats declared his election null and void for various reasons including the fact that he was ineligible for the Senate because he was not a citizen under Dred Scott until the passage of the 14th Amendment.

Mr. Revels was eventually seated on February 25, 1870 after a Senate vote of 48 to 8.