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Celebrating Black History Month

We honor the many African Americans who have enriched the history of the United States Senate. In 1870 Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the first African American senator. Five years later Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi took the oath of office and became the first African American to preside over the Senate and to serve a full term. It would be nearly another century before Edward Brooke of Massachusetts followed in their historic footsteps in 1967. Illinois senator Carol Mosely Braun broke another barrier in 1993 by becoming the first African American female senator.

Senator Blanche K. Bruce
Blanche Bruce
Photograph of Senator Edward Brooke
Edward Brooke
Photograph of Senator Carol Moseley Braun
Carol Moseley Braun

Senator Barack Obama of Illinois took office in 2005, then resigned in 2008 to become the 44th President of the United States. To fill his vacant Senate seat, the Illinois governor appointed Roland Burris. In 2013 Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina became the first African American since Reconstruction to represent a southern state. He was joined by appointed Massachusetts senator William "Mo" Cowan on February 1, 2013, marking the first time in history that two African American senators served simultaneously. Cowan left office that same year, but within weeks Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey won a special election. In total, nine African American senators have served since 1789.

The important contributions of African Americans to Senate history are not limited to those who served in elected office. Staff members, journalists, laborers, and officers have played a critical role in all aspects of Senate operations.

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