Hiram Rhodes Revels

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Hiram Rhodes Revels (September 27, 1827– January 16, 1901) was a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church(AME), and a politician. He was the first person of color to serve in the United States Senate, and in the U.S. Congress overall. He represented Mississippi in 1870 and 1871 during Reconstruction.

During the American Civil War, he helped organize two regiments of the United States Colored Troops and served as a chaplain.

Revels was born a free man in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to free parents of African and European ancestry. He was tutored by a black woman for his early education. In 1838 he went to live with his older brother, Elias B. Revels, in Lincolnton, North Carolina, and was apprenticed as a barber in his brother’s shop. After Elias Revels died in 1841, his widow Mary transferred the shop to Hiram before she remarried.

Revels attended the Union County Quaker Seminary in Indiana, and studied at a black seminary in Ohio.

In 1845 Revels was ordained as a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME); he served as a preacher and religious teacher throughout the Midwest: in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kansas. “At times, I met with a great deal of opposition,” he later recalled. “I was imprisoned in Missouri in 1854 for preaching the gospel to Negroes, though I was never subjected to violence.

He did additional religious studies from 1856 to 1857 at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. He became a minister in a Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland, where he also served as a principal for a black high school.

As a chaplain in the United States Army, Revels helped recruit and organize two black Union regiments during the Civil War in Maryland and Missouri. He took part at the battle of Vicksburg in Mississippi.

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