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African-American U.S. Senators

#1 Hiram Rhodes Revels First African American to Serve in Congress

(R- Mississippi)

February 1870 - March 1871

The first African American to be sworn in as a U.S. Senator was Hiram Rhodes Revels, in 1870.

Hiram Rhodes Revels was born, a free man, on September 27, 1827 in Fayetteville, NC.  He started his education in North Carolina, despite the fact that slavery was still in existence and it was illegal for Blacks to get an education in the state.  He later moved to Indiana and then to Ohio where he attended seminary schools.  In 1845, at the age of eighteen, Revels became an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.  He was elected an elder to the AME Indiana Conference in 1849.  


#2 Blanche K. Bruce (R- Mississippi, 1875 - 1881)

An escaped slave who ran away at the very beginning of the Civil War, Blanche Bruce became the first African American senator to serve a full term.  He was elected by the Mississippi state legislature in 1874 and served until 1881.

On February 14, 1879 he became the first African American to preside over the U.S. Senate.  He died in Washington, D.C. in 1898.

Note: U.S. Senators were chosen by state legislatures until the 17th Amendment of 1913, when their elections were changed to popular elections, instead of legislative elections.

#3 Edward Brooke (R- Massachusetts, 1967 - 1979)

Edward Brooke was the first African American to be elected by popular vote.  

He was elected in 1967 and served two full terms (1967 - 1979).  Eighty-six years had passed (between Blanche Bruce and Edward Brooke) before another African American was elected as a U.S. Senator.  

Brooke was a republican from Massachusetts.  He was also a WWII veteran, a graduate of Howard University, and he received his degree in law from Boston University.

#4 Carol Moseley Braun (D- Illinois, 1993 - 1999)

She became the first African-American woman to serve as a U.S. Senator, in 1993.  

A total of five women were elected to the U.S. Senate, in that election cycle, and they began serving in January of 1993.  Carol Moseley Braun served from 1993 - 1999, representing the state of Illinois, and was an advocate of education and gun control. 

#5 Barack Obama (D- Illinois, 2005 - 2008)

President Obama during a meeting with members of his National Security Staff in the Oval Office, Feb. 28, 2014 - Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

As amazing as it may seem, only four other African Americans served as U.S. Senators before Barack Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004.  He served as Senator from Illinois until his election as the 44th President of the United States in November of 2008.

#6 Roland Burris (D- Illinois, 2009 - 2010) 

Roland Burris was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Barack Obama.  He served from January of 2009 to November of 2010.  He was not a candidate in the special election to permanently fill the seat, so he was eventually replaced by another person who won the special election to fill the rest of Barack Obama's unexpired term.

Burris, prior to being appointed to the Senate, was the first African American to win a statewide election in Illinois, in 1978, as comptroller of that state, and was a former state Attorney General. 

#7 Tim Scott (R- South Carolina, 2013 - Present)

The first African American to represent a southern state since Blanche K. Bruce,  Tim Scott, from South Carolina, was appointed to the Senate in January of 2013.

He held a state office in the South Carolina house of representatives and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, before being appointed to the U.S. Senate.

#8 William "Mo" Cowan (D- Massachusetts, Feb. 2013 - Jul. 2013)

On February 1, 2013, Cowen was appointed (as a democrat) to temporarily fill the vacancy caused by John Kerry's appointment as U.S. Secretary of State.  Cowan became the second African American, from Massachusetts, to serve in the U.S. Senate.

#9 Cory A. Booker (D- New Jersey, Oct. 2013 - Present)

Born in Washington, D.C., Booker is a graduate of Stanford University and he attended The Queen"s College, University of Oxford, in England, as a Rhodes Scholar.  

He was also a member of the Newark City Council from 1998 - 2002 and he served as mayor of Newark, NJ from 2006 - 2013. 

Booker took the oath of office, as a U.S. Senator, on October 31, 2013.  His election was a special election (given the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg).  

His election marked the first time an African American and an American of Hispanic descent, Robert Menendez, served, simultaneously, as U.S. Senators from the same state.

#10 Kamala Harris (D- California, Jan. 2017 - Present)

Kamala Harris was the Attorney General for the state of California, from 2011 to 2016.  She was elected to the U.S. Senate on November 8, 2016 and is the first African American and South Asian American to serve in that position from California.

USGS National Map

Thus, only six states have elected African Americans to the U.S. Senate in the entire history of the U.S. Congress:  Mississippi, Massachusetts, Illinois, South Carolina, New Jersey and California.



Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=R000166

History, Art and Archives.  United States House of Representatives. Revels, Hiram Rhodes.  http://history.house.gov/People/Listing/R/REVELS,-Hiram-Rhodes-(R000166)/

Unites States Senate.  Breaking New Ground: African American Senators.  http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/history/h_multi_sections_and_teasers/Photo_Exhibit_African_American_Senators.htm

United States Senate: Classic Senate Speeches.  http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/Speeches_Revels.htm

See Hiram Revels' first speech as a U.S. Senator.  http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/resources/pdf/RevelsGeorgia.pdf