African American Odyssey Introduction | Overview | Object List | Education Materials

African American Men in Government

What’s the Main Idea?

Object Description

Probing Further

The First Colored Senators and Representatives, in the 41st and 42nd Congress of the United States, 1872

Object Description

The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave the vote to all male citizens regardless of color or previous condition of servitude. African Americans became involved in the political process not only as voters but also as governmental representatives at the local, state and national level. Although their elections were often contested by whites, and members of the legislative bodies were usually reluctant to receive them, many African American men ably served their country during Reconstruction. Pictured here are Senator Hiram R. Revels and Representatives Benjamin S. Turner, Josiah T. Walls, Joseph H. Rainey, Robert Brown Elliot, Robert D. De Large, and Jefferson H. Long.

Probing Further

  1. List the provisions of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. How were the lives of African American freedmen changed by these amendments? Did they obtain the rights and freedoms promised to them? Why or why not?

  2. The Fifteenth amendment gave African American men the right to vote. The drawing, The First Vote, depicts African American men in line waiting to deposit their ballots. Describe what you see in the sketch. What do you think is the point of view of the artist?

  3. Write a short biography on any two congressmen listed in the above description. From what state were they elected into the Senate or House of Representatives? What were their political beliefs?


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