MDAH Historic election of Hiram Revels to U.S. Senate to be commemorated

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Hiram Revels

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the historic election of Hiram Revels as the first African American elected to the U.S. Congress in a ceremony in the Old State Capitol in Jackson on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

In February 1870, the Mississippi legislature convened in the Old Capitol and elected Revels to the U.S. Senate representing Mississippi. The historic moment will be celebrated in the same chambers where legislators took their vote. During that time, U.S. senators were elected by state legislatures rather than by popular vote.

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University, will deliver the keynote speech for the program. His 1988 book Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877 was a groundbreaking survey of the Reconstruction era, redefining the role of Hiram Revels and other African American elected officials during the period.

Other program participants include MDAH director Katie Blount; Birdon Mitchell Jr., pastor of Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church in Natchez; Felecia M. Nave, president of Alcorn State University; Lauren Miller, Old Capitol Museum director; and Pamela Junior, director of the Two Mississippi Museums—the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

In addition to his historic role in the U.S. Congress, Revels was the first president of Alcorn A & M College—now Alcorn State University, and was pastor of Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church in Natchez.

Hiram Revels was born in North Carolina in 1827. After studying for the ministry at seminaries in Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois, he was ordained in 1845 in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. When the Civil War began, Revels served as a chaplain in Vicksburg, Mississippi. After the war, Revels served as pastor at churches in Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana before moving to Natchez and Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church.

After serving in the U.S. Senate, Revels became the first president of Alcorn and later taught theology at Shaw University, now Rust College, in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Revels remained active in his church work until his death in 1901.

A reception will take place at 5:30 p.m. and the program will begin at 6 p.m. The program will take place in the historic House of Representatives Chamber in the Old Capitol Museum, located at 100 South State Street, Jackson, MS 39201. There is no charge to attend. For more information call 601-576-6850 or email

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