Black History Month: 7 notable African American political activists who predate MLK Jr.

Hiram Revels

Hiram Revels (1827-1901)
Hiram Revels (1827-1901) | Public Domain

Born to a free black family in North Carolina in 1827, Hiram Revels became the first African American member of Congress when he became the Republican senator representing Mississippi in 1870.

Before that accomplishment, Revels was ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1845 and helped to raise two black regiments for the Union Army during the Civil War.

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During his brief time in the Senate, Revels championed both efforts to advance racial equality and also reconciliation toward former enemies, as he supported a bill that granted amnesty to Confederate soldiers, provided they swear an oath of allegiance to the Union.

"I am in favor of removing the disabilities of those upon whom they are imposed in the South, just as fast as they give evidence of having become loyal and being loyal," stated Revels in a speech.

"If you can find one man in the South who gives evidence that he is a loyal man, and gives that evidence in the fact that he has ceased to denounce the laws of Congress as unconstitutional, has ceased to oppose them, and respects them and favors the carrying of them out, I am in favor of removing his disabilities."

Upon leaving Congress in 1871, Revels held multiple positions of authority in both academia and the AME Church before dying of a stroke in 1901.

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