Wednesday, February 11, 2009

First Black Congressman Hiram Rhodes Revels

Today, as part of its Celebrating Black History series, the Indianapolis Star has an article discussing Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first black congressman, who represented Mississippi from 1870-1871.

The article contains a number of interesting facts, including that Revels received part of his education at the Beech Grove Quaker Seminary in Liberty, Ind., about 1844.

What the Star omits from its article, as is often the case when publications discuss early black elected officials, is that Revels was a Republican. That is not surprising. Virtually all African-Americans back then were Republican. It is unclear why media outlets feel that it is appropriate to not name someone's political party when writing the history of a black elected officials. At least the Star article mentioned that Democrats in the Senate tried to block him from being seated. Still no mention of his being a Republican.


varangianguard said...

Perhaps it is that many people, lacking enough historical perspective simply cannot credit a fact like that.

Think about it for a moment. If the bulk of someone's knowledge and experiences extend no further than 20 or 30 years back, then in what context might someone be expected to credit a statement mentioning that a black elected official in the south was a Republican?

Paul K. Ogden said...


Exactly. People don't realize that African-Americans were at one time the most loyal Republican supporters there was. Even in 1932, the year Democrat Roosevelt swamped Republican Hoover at the polls, a strong majority of blacks voted for Hoover. It was Republicans who supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 by larger margins than the Democrats in Congress.

I remember one guy telling me that he would never vote Republican because of the legal segregatinon he experienced when he visited friends in the south. Those were policies enacted by Democrats who totally controlled the South. Yet he blamed Republicans. How the D's came out smelling like a rose on civil rights is the greatest political spin in history.