Thomas Jefferson Knowledge Institute

Hiram Rhodes Revels

Hiram RevelsA freedman his entire life, Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress. With his moderate political orientation and oratorical skills honed from years as a Methodist preacher, Revels filled a vacant seat in the United States Senate in 1870. Just before the Senate agreed to admit a black man to its ranks on February 25, Republican Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts sized up the importance of the moment: "All men are created equal, says the great Declaration," Sumner roared, "and now a great act attests this verity. Today we make the Declaration a reality... The Declaration was only half established by Independence. The greatest duty remained behind. In assuring the equal rights of all we complete the work."

Hiram Rhodes Revels: First Senator of color gives his first formal speech

Full text of his speech