I love History and I love Research. I love to go thru the archives and see what I can find. I love to go back to the beginning of things and see how far we've come since then. Many times I'm amused at what we believe now as gospel truth in comparison to where we've been.
I talked with my grandmother this morning, a die-hard liberal. She told me she voted for Obama even though she hates Obama but felt she had no choice. Many of us believe she's a racist growing up in an era when it was ok to be so. She's a Democrat after all. She is loyal, have to give her that. I asked her if she knew who the very first Black Senator was. She did not. So I thought I'd share what I know about Hiram Revels.
Hiram Revels was from Mississippi and was elected the first black Senator in US history. He was a Republican! The date was March 16, 1870 and the Senate galleries were packed as Senator Revels stood to deliver his first speech as a Senator.
He was a product of post Civil War when Republicans dominted state governments in the South. Back then Senators weren't popularly elected so the Mississippi Legislature voted, with the backing of the black community, to send him to the Senate. Revels later wrote in his autobiography "It would in their judgment be a weakening blow against color line prejudice."
He was born free and like Obama was of mixed race. Hiram's mother was white and his father was black. He started out as a minister and was once jailed for preaching the gospel to the blacks.
The Washington Post called his first Senate speech "the sensation of the town." He made a point in his speech assuring whites that they had nothing to fear from blacks seeking payback from slavery. He said "they bear toward their former masters no revengeful thoughts, no hatreds, no animosities."
Many say that Obama faces obstacles in this presidential race because of his color. Perhaps he does to some degree but nothing like what Revels encountered back in 1870. He had much more overt opposition than Obama will ever have. Back then just a few weeks before his speech, a small group of Democratic Senators spent days trying to deny Revels his seat in the Senate solely because of his color.
A Senator Davis of KY mocked Republicans by declaring, "Oh ye Pharisees political! You who profess such obedience to the will of the people! You who represent universal democracy, not only the white man, but the Negro and the mulatto, and you now want to get in all the Mongolian race too!" This same Senator called the 1866 law to extend citizenship to blacks a "farce."
My how things have changed. My grandmother calls herself an old Democrat. I don't think she really realizes totally what that means but it looks like she's a throwback to how it used to be once upon a time.