This Black History Month I’m Grateful for Hiram Revels
“The colored race can be built up and assisted … in acquiring
property, in becoming intelligent, valuable, useful citizens, without one hair
upon the head of any white man being harmed.”
– Hiram Revels
Hiram Revels is relatively unknown even to students of Black
American history. His name is usually evoked only when something unusual
happens: a Black person becoming a United States Senator.
In the 150 years
since the Emancipation Proclamation, fewer than ten Blacks have been Senators
and Hiram Revels was the first. Revels served Mississippi for a little more
than a year and had a relatively uneventful experience after controversy
surrounding his seating in the Senate abated.
The political universe of Reconstruction was vastly different
than our own but Revels established an important precedent. His dignified
service to his state and our country demonstrated that White fears of
incompetent Black leadership were absurd.
After his time in the Senate concluded, Revels continued to
have a valuable career, serving as the first president of Alcorn State, as a
professor and as a minister. We can only hope that our current Black Senators
give as generously to the world as Revels did.
Today I am grateful for Hiram Revels. You should be too.