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Most influential Black politicians in American history

by The Grio

Historically, Black political power has not come easy in the United States. The institution of slavery and systems of racial inequality – from Black Codes to Jim Crow – restricted the civil and political rights of African Americans for centuries. 

But through activism and great sacrifice, Black Americans have built political power over time. That power is not more exemplified than in Washington, the nation’s capital. From the first Black president to the first African American woman ever elected to the United States Congress, Black people have made considerable gains – and helped to change the face of U.S. politics as we know it.

Here is theGrio’s list of most influential Black politicians in American history.

Hiram Rhodes Revels

Hiram Rhodes Revels broke political barriers in 1870 when he was elected to the United States Senate, becoming the first African-American person to enter either chamber of Congress. Revels, born in North Carolina, was a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. During the Civil War, he served as a chaplain for the United States Army. He later relocated to Mississippi and served in the state Senate. 

During Reconstruction, the Mississippi State Legislature voted for Revels to represent the state in the U.S. Senate. The Republican politician’s historic election did not come without opposition from white southern Democrats, who challenged the constitutionality of his election given the fact that Mississippi was under military rule and “lacked a civil government to confirm his election,” according to U.S. Congress records. Democrats at the time also argued that Black people had only gained citizenship two years prior under the 14th Amendment and that he needed citizenship for at least nine years to serve in the Senate.

Revels was serving out the remainder of a term left vacant during the Civil War and remained in the U.S. Senate for a little over a…

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