I believe that in most cases they were figureheads but were there any examples of an African-American leader who actually was at least partially effective in state government?

EDIT: It is clear that in at least one example, the person in office was quite active and perhaps this is generally the case?

EDIT: State or Federal government, did not mean to be specific to state.

1 Answer 1


How about Hiram Rhodes Revels:

Hiram Rhodes Revels (September 27, 1827[note 1] – January 16, 1901) was an American politician, a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), and a college administrator. Born free in North Carolina, he later lived and worked in Ohio, where he voted before the Civil War. He became the first African American to serve as a Republican in the U.S. Congress when he was elected to the United States Senate to represent Mississippi in 1870 and 1871 during the Reconstruction era.

Looks like a typical political career to me.

In his maiden speech to the Senate on March 16, 1870, he argued for the reinstatement of the black legislators of the Georgia General Assembly, who had been illegally ousted by white Democratic Party representatives.


He served on both the Committee of Education and Labor and the Committee on the District of Columbia. (At the time, the Congress administered the District.) Much of the Senate's attention focused on Reconstruction issues. While Radical Republicans called for continued punishment of ex-Confederates, Revels argued for amnesty and a restoration of full citizenship, provided they swore an oath of loyalty to the United States.

So I would say he qualified as 'not a figurehead', but just a typical Senator doing his job, who happened to be African-American.

  • Are there examples of his, for example, speaking on the floor?
    – Jeff
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 4:19
  • 3
    I see that in fact he was active in non-trivial ways. The South treated him badly.
    – Jeff
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 4:34
  • Yes, edited more into answer
    – justCal
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 4:40
  • This is very interesting, but the question asks about "Blacks in state government".
    – bof
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 5:45
  • 1
    I'm not blaming you because you were just quoting Wikipedia, but "first African American to serve as a Republican in the U.S. Congress"? He was the first African American, period; no African American was elected to Congress as a Democrat until 1934.
    – bof
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 6:10

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