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Hiram Revels was the first African American to serve in the United States Senate, his terms starting in 1870. Blanche K. Bruce was the second African American to serve in the Senate, having been elected in 1874. Revels was a Civil War veteran elected to represent Mississippi by that state’s legislature, but served only one year. Bruce was an escaped slave who made his war to the north, returning to Mississippi following Reconstruction and from where he was also elected by the state legislature to the U.S. Senate, where he served from 1875 to 1801, a full single term. While both of these individuals’ tenures in the Senate were relatively brief, they are both justifiably considered important figures in American history. That they were both sent to Washington by the Mississippi state legislature, as opposed to having been elected by the state’s voting populace, was testament to the enduring problem of racism in the Deep South so soon following the Civil War.
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