The first African Americans to serve in the United States Senate, Hiram R. Revels (1822-1901) and Blanche K. Bruce (1841-1898) illustrate the diverse backgrounds and community activities of Reconstruction's black political leaders.
Revels was born free in North Carolina, attended Knox College in Illinois, and before the Civil War preached throughout the Midwest for the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
During the Civil War, he served as chaplain for a black regiment. Revels came to Mississippi in 1865 and became involved in the movement to establish schools for the former slaves.
After being elected to the state Senate in 1869, Revels was chosen by the legislature to fill Mississippi's unexpired term in the U. S. Senate, serving from February 1870 to March 1871.
After leaving the Senate, Revels was for several years president of Alcorn University, an institution for African American students established during Reconstruction.
He also worked for the Methodist Episcopal Church, which he had joined during the Civil War, and in 1876 unsuccessfully protested his church's plans to hold racially segregated annual conferences in the South.