Since 1870, 123 African Americans have served in the United States Congress. This figure includes five non-voting members of the House of Representatives who represented the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition, in 1868, one candidate was elected to the House but was not seated due to an election dispute.
Reconstruction and Redemption
The right of Blacks to vote and to serve in the United States Congress was established after the Civil War by the Fifth,Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. The Thirteenth Amendment (ratified December 6, 1865), abolished slavery. The Fourteenth Amendment (ratified July 9, 1868) made all people born or naturalized in the United States citizens. The Fifteenth Amendment (ratified February 3, 1870) forbade the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, and gave Congress the power to enforce the law by appropriate legislation. In 1866, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act and the Reconstruction Act, which dissolved all governments in the former Confederate states with the exception of Tennessee, and divided the South into five military districts to protect the rights of newly freed blacks. The act required that the former Confederate states ratify their constitutions conferring citizenship rights on blacks or forfeit their representation in Congress.
As a result of these measures, blacks acquired the right to vote across the Southern states. In several states (notably Mississippi and South Carolina), blacks were the majority of the population, and were able, by forming coalitions with pro-Union whites, to take control of the state legislatures, which at that time elected members of the United States Senate. In practice, however, only Mississippi elected black Senators. On February 25, 1870, Hiram Rhodes Revels became the first black member of the Senate and thereby also the first black member of the Congress. Blacks were a majority of the population in many congressional districts across the South. In 1870, Joseph Rainey of South Carolina became the first black member of the United States House of Representatives and thereby the first directly elected black member of Congress. Blacks were also elected from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia. All of these Reconstruction era black senators and representatives were members of the Republican Party. To many blacks, the Republicans represented the party of Abraham Lincoln and of the Emancipation Proclamation, while the Southern Democrats represented the party of slavery and secession. Until 1876, the Republicans made genuine efforts to ensure that southern blacks were able to vote. After the disputed Presidential election of 1876 between Democratic Samuel J. Tilden, governor of New York, and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, governor of Ohio, an agreement between Democratic and Republican factions was negotiated, resulting in the Compromise of 1877. Under the compromise, Democrats conceded the election to Hayes and promised to acknowledge the political rights of blacks; Republicans agreed to no longer intervene in southern affairs and promised to appropriate a portion of federal monies toward southern projects….