Art & History

Black Americans in Congress

  Joseph RaineyOil on Canvas, Simmie Knox, 2005, Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives

The first African-American Member of Congress was elected nearly 100 years after the United States became a nation. The first African-American Members, Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina and Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi, were elected to office in 1870. They, along with the African-American Members who joined them a few years later, worked hard to pass laws making all men, regardless of their race, equal.

African Americans were rarely elected to Congress over the next hundred years. In the 1970s that changed when a large number of Black Americans were elected to Congress. In 1971, 13 African-American Members founded the Congressional Black Caucus to focus on issues important to all Black Americans.

Use the interactive map to learn more about the African-Americans who have represented districts in Congress.

Additional Resources