FIRST NEGRO IN CONGRESS
People started moving towards the capital at daybreak. By midday, every available space had been filled. There was a sense of expectancy in the air. An AME minister, Hiram Rhodes Revels, was awaiting admission to the Senate and people in the know said there would be a decision that day. Rebels was the front man of a revolution. Negro voters were in the majority in five southern states, including Mississippi which had elected Revels to the Senate to serve the unexpired term Jefferson Davis, the former president of the confederacy.
As the crowd gathered on the day of decision, Revels waited patiently in a lounge off the Senate chamber. Presently, the Senate came to order. And the debate on Revels admission continued. Senator Willard Salisbury (D., Del.) had, he said, little hope for America. He would, if possible, avert this threatened calamity; he would preserve to “our white posterity” this heritage bequeathed by noble white men to their white descendants. Revels, the senator said, was not qualified; he did not meet the test of citizenship. Nonsense, said Senator Simon Cameron (R., Pa.). Negroes were citizens by a higher law–that of having fought for and helped to save the Union.” The Senate voted finally and Revels won, 48 to 8. The people in the galleries rose as Revels walked down the long aisle and was sworn in as the first Negro U. S.Senator and the first member of the U.S. Congress. It was 4:40 in the afternoon, on Friday, February 25, 1870.