African-American Political Pioneers – The Bridge Art Gallery

African-American Political Pioneers


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During Radical Reconstruction, which began with the passage of the Reconstruction Act of 1867, newly enfranchised Black people gained a voice in government for the first time in the United States.  Four of the newly elected politicians are featured in the artwork. Hiram Rhodes Revels (September 27, 1827) was a minister and the first African American to serve as a United States Senator representing Mississippi.  In 1870, Revels replaced Jefferson Davis who was the president of the Confederacy.  Benjamin S. Turner (March 17, 1825) was born enslaved in Weldon, North Carolina.  He served as a congressman for Alabama from 1871 to 1873.   Josiah T. Walls (December 30, 1842) was a congressman who served three terms in Congress between 1871 and 1876.  He was the first person elected to Congress from Florida.   R. Brown Elliott (August 11, 1842) was born in Liverpool, England where he received a public education.  As a member of the British Navy Elliott arrived on a war ship in Boston around 1867.  Elliott was intellectually gifted and well educated often quoting classical literature and speaking several languages. Elliott settled in South Carolina and served as a congressman from 1871 to 1875.  Joseph H. Rainey (June 21, 1832) was the first African American to serve in Congress and the second to serve in the Senate from South Carolina.