Black Americans in Congress

  Joseph RaineyOil on Canvas, Simmie Knox, 2005, Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives

The first African-American Member of Congress was elected nearly 100 years after the United States became a nation. Slavery had only been illegal for five years in the American South when Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina and Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi were elected to office in 1870. In fact, the states they served had been represented by slave owners only 10 years earlier. The early African-American Members argued passionately for legislation promoting racial equality, but it would still be many years before they would be viewed as equals.

On December 5, 1887, for the first time in almost two decades, Congress convened without an African-American Member. For nearly 30 years, no African Americans served in Congress. With his election to the U.S. House of Representatives from a Chicago district in 1928, Oscar De Priest of Illinois became the first African American to serve in Congress since George White of North Carolina left office in 1901.

Use the interactive map to compile information on the representation of Black Americans in Congress, such as the number of Members who served from a particular state or region and when they served.

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