Black Americans in Congress

websitephoto: harpers first vote
Sun 5 2008

Since 1870, when Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi and Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina became the first African Americans to serve in Congress, a total of 123 African Americans have served as U.S. Representatives or Senators.

The website, Black Americans in Congress chronicles African Americans’ participation in the federal legislature and their struggle to attain full civil rights.

Black Americans in Congress combines historical essays, artifacts, lesson plans to offer a multi-faceted narrative. The website is a companion to the book, Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007 developed through The Office of History and Preservation (under the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives). The Office of History and Preservation provides a complimentary copies of the book to educators for classroom use, subject to availability. Teachers can request the book through the website.

The site offers Educational Resources including lesson plans on the African-American pioneers who served on Capitol Hill from 1870 to 2007 and activities on photographs, objects, and quotations. Lesson plans are downloadable PDFs on topics such as Jim Crow and the Exclusion of African Americans from Congress, 1877-1929, The Black Americans of Congress Speak Their Mind, and The Expansion, Organization, and Rising Influence of African Americans in Congress, 1971-2007. A collection of fast facts on black Members of Congress, a link to an interactive map, and a list of online resources round out educational materials.

About the Author

Lee Ann Ghajar is a digital history associate in Public Projects at CHNM and a PhD candidate in American history at George Mason University.