Barack Obama was the first African-American U.S. Senator to be elected President of the United States.
Kamala Harris was the first African-American U.S. Senator to be elected Vice President of the United States.

This is a list of African Americans who have served in the United States Senate. The Senate has had eleven African-American elected or appointed officeholders. Two each served during both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.[1]

Of the eight African Americans ever to sit in the U.S. Senate since the African American Civil Rights Movement, three held Illinois's Class 3 seat, including Barack Obama, who went on to become the President of the United States. This makes Illinois the state with the most African-American U.S. senators to date.

In 2016, Kamala Harris became the first African American to be elected a U.S. senator from California. Harris would go on to become the first African-American Vice President of the United States and first African American President of the United States Senate.

Of the 11 African-American senators, seven were popularly elected (including one that previously had been appointed by his state's governor), two were elected by the state legislature prior to the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1913 (which provides for the direct election of U.S. senators by the people of each state), and two were appointed by a state Governor and never elected.[citation needed]

Background

The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral United States Congress, which is the legislative branch of the federal government of the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau defines "African Americans" as citizens or residents of the United States who have origins in any of the black populations of Africa.[2] The term is generally used for Americans with at least partial ancestry in any of the original peoples of sub-Saharan Africa.[citation needed]

During the founding of the federal government, African Americans were consigned to a status of second-class citizenship or enslaved.[3] No African American served in federal elective office before the ratification in 1870 of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, although some (including Alexander Twilight, as state senator in Vermont) served in state elective offices concurrently with slavery. The Fifteenth Amendment prohibits the federal and state governments from denying any citizen the right to vote because of that citizen's race, color, or previous condition of servitude.[citation needed]

History

Reconstruction to Obama: 1870-2011

Hiram Rhodes Revels (left) was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate; Carol Moseley Braun was the first African-American woman elected to the chamber.

The first two African-American senators represented the state of Mississippi during the Reconstruction era, following the American Civil War. Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African American to serve in the Senate, was elected by the Mississippi State Legislature to succeed Albert G. Brown, who resigned during the Civil War. Some Democratic members of the United States Senate opposed his being seated based on the court case Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) by the Supreme Court of the United States, claiming that Revels did not meet the nine-year citizenship requirement, but the majority of senators voted to seat him.[4]

In 1872, the Louisiana state legislature elected P. B. S. Pinchback to the Senate. However, the 1872 elections in Louisiana were challenged by white Democrats, and Pinchback was never seated in Congress.

The Mississippi state legislature elected Blanche Bruce in 1875, but Republicans lost power of the Mississippi state legislature in 1876. Bruce was not elected to a second term in 1881.[4] In 1890, the Democratic-dominated state legislature passed a new constitution disfranchising most black voters. Every other Southern state also passed disfranchising constitutions by 1908, thus excluding African Americans from the political system in the entire former Confederacy. This situation persisted well into the 1960s, when federal enforcement of constitutional rights under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 commenced.

The next black United States senator, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, took office in 1967. He was the first African American to be elected by popular vote after the ratification in 1913 of the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which established direct election of United States senators instead of indirect election by a state legislature. A Republican, Brooke was the first black Senator to serve two terms in the Senate, holding office until 1979.[4] From 1979 to 1993, there were no black members of the United States Senate.

Between 1993 and 2010, three black members of the Illinois Democratic Party would hold Illinois’s Class 3 Senate seat at different times. Carol Moseley Braun entered the Senate in 1993 and was the first African-American woman in the Senate.[4] She served one term. Barack Obama entered the Senate in 2005 and, in 2008, became the first African American to be elected President of the United States.[5] Obama was still a Senator when he was elected President and Roland Burris, also an African American, was appointed to fill the remainder of Obama's Senate term. Burris only briefly ran for re-election and did not enter the Democratic primary.[6] From 2011 to 2013, there were no black Senators for the first time since Obama was elected in 2004.

Contemporary Period: 2013-present

Following Obama's election as president, the next two black senators, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Mo Cowan of Massachusetts, were both appointed by governors to fill the terms of Jim DeMint and John Kerry, respectively, who had resigned their positions.[4] Thus, 2013 marked the first time in history that more than one African American served in the Senate at the same time.[7] On October 16 of that year, citizens of New Jersey elected Cory Booker in a special election to fill the seat of the late senator Frank R. Lautenberg.[8] Sworn into office, Booker was the first African-American senator to be elected since Obama and the first to represent the state of New Jersey. He was later elected a full six-year term in the 2014 mid-term elections. Scott retained his seat in a special election in 2014 and also secured a full six-year term in 2016.

In 2017, Scott and Booker were joined by Kamala Harris of California.[9] Harris was the second African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate, and, in 2020, was elected as the first female vice president of the United States. In 2021, Raphael Warnock of Georgia was elected as the first African-American Democrat to represent a former Confederate state in the U.S. Senate.

As of January 20, 2021, there have been 1,994 members of the United States Senate,[10] of which 11 have been African American.[1]

List of African-American U.S. senators

Political affiliation
  Democratic   Republican
Image Senator State Took office Left office Tenure Party Congress Note
Hiram Rhodes Revels - Brady-Handy-(restored).png
Hiram Rhodes Revels
(1827–1901)
Mississippi February 25, 1870 March 3, 1871 1 year, 7 days Republican 41st
(1869–1871)
Retired [note 1][11][12]
Blanche Bruce - Brady-Handy.jpg
Blanche Bruce
(1841–1898)
Mississippi March 4, 1875 March 4, 1881 6 years, 0 days Republican 44th
(1875–1877)
Retired [note 2][14][13]
45th
(1877–1879)
46th
(1879–1881)
Edward brooke senator.jpg
Edward Brooke
(1919–2015)
Massachusetts January 3, 1967 January 3, 1979 12 years, 0 days Republican 90th
(1967–1969)
Lost reelection [note 3][15]
91st
(1969–1971)
92nd
(1971–1973)
93rd
(1973–1975)
94th
(1975–1977)
95th
(1977–1979)
Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.jpg
Carol Moseley Braun
(born 1947)
Illinois January 3, 1993 January 3, 1999 6 years, 0 days Democratic 103rd
(1993–1995)
Lost reelection[note 4][16][17]
104th
(1995–1997)
105th
(1997–1999)
BarackObamaportrait.jpg
Barack Obama
(born 1961)
Illinois January 3, 2005 November 16, 2008 3 years, 318 days Democratic 109th
(2005–2007)
Resigned following election as President of the United States[note 5][5][18]
110th
(2007–2009)
Sen Roland Burris.jpg
Roland Burris
(born 1937)
Illinois January 15, 2009 November 29, 2010 1 year, 318 days Democratic 111th
(2009–2011)
Retired [note 6][6]
Tim Scott, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
Tim Scott
(born 1965)
South Carolina January 2, 2013 Incumbent 9 years, 139 days Republican 112th
(2011–2013)
[note 7][19][20]
113th
(2013–2015)
114th
(2015–2017)
115th
(2017–2019)
116th
(2019–2021)
117th
(2021–2023)
Mo Cowan, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
Mo Cowan
(born 1969)
Massachusetts February 1, 2013 July 16, 2013 165 days Democratic 113th
(2013–2015)
Retired [note 8][21][22]
Cory Booker, official portrait, 114th Congress.jpg
Cory Booker
(born 1969)
New Jersey October 31, 2013 Incumbent 8 years, 202 days Democratic 113th
(2013–2015)
[note 9][8][23][24]
114th
(2015–2017)
115th
(2017–2019)
116th
(2019–2021)
117th
(2021–2023)
Senator Harris official senate portrait.jpg
Kamala Harris
(born 1964)
California January 3, 2017 January 18, 2021 4 years, 15 days Democratic 115th
(2017–2019)
Resigned following election as Vice President of the United States. [note 11][27][28]
116th
(2019–2021)
117th
(2021–2023)
Raphael Warnock official photo.jpg
Raphael Warnock
(born 1969)
Georgia January 20, 2021 Incumbent 1 year, 121 days Democratic 117th
(2021–2023)
[note 12][29]

African Americans elected to the United States Senate, but not seated

Political party

  Republican

Image Senator-elect State Year elected Party Congress Note
P. B. S. Pinchback - Brady-Handy.jpg
P. B. S. Pinchback
(1837–1921)
Louisiana 1873 Republican 44th
(1875–1877)
Denied seat due to a contested election that involved William L. McMillen.[30]

Graphs

Histograph

The histograph below sets forth the number of African Americans who served in the United States Senate during the periods provided.

Starting Total Graph
March 4, 1789 0  
February 25, 1870 1 *
March 4, 1871 0  
March 4, 1875 1 *
March 4, 1881 0  
January 3, 1967 1 *
January 4, 1979 0  
January 3, 1993 1 *
January 4, 1999 0  
January 3, 2005 1 *
November 17, 2008 0  
January 15, 2009 1 *
November 30, 2010 0  
January 2, 2013 1 *
February 1, 2013 2 **
July 17, 2013 1 *
October 31, 2013 2 **
January 3, 2017 3 ***
January 18, 2021 2 **
January 20, 2021 3 ***

See also

Federal government
State and local government

Notes

  1. ^ Elected to complete an unfinished term after Mississippi was readmitted to the Union on February 23, 1870. First African American to serve in the United States Senate and Congress. First African American to serve in Congress from Mississippi.[11]
  2. ^ First African American to serve a full six-year term as a United States senator. The only senator to be a former slave.[13]
  3. ^ First African American elected to the Senate by direct election. First African American to serve in Congress from Massachusetts.[15]
  4. ^ First African-American female and African-American Democrat to serve in the United States Senate.[16]
  5. ^ First African-American President of the United States.[5]
  6. ^ Appointed by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to fill vacancy caused by the resignation of President-elect Barack Obama. Not a candidate during special election following his appointment. First African American to succeed another African American in the Senate.[6]
  7. ^ Appointed by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to fill vacancy caused by the resignation of Jim DeMint. First African American to serve in both chambers of the United States Congress. Later won a special election in 2014 and was elected to a full term in 2016.
  8. ^ Appointed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to fill vacancy caused by the resignation of John Kerry. Not a candidate during special election following his appointment. First African-American senator appointed by an African-American governor. The first African American to serve alongside another African-American senator: Tim Scott.
  9. ^ First African American to serve in the Senate from New Jersey. First African American to be elected to the Senate by special election.
  10. ^ Harris is the child of a Caribbean-born father and India-born mother.[25] Other African Americans who were elected to Congress and were born in the Caribbean or to Caribbean-born parents include Rep. Shirley Chisholm, Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, Del. Stacey Plaskett, Rep. Mia Love, Del. Melvin H. Evans, Del. Donna Christian-Christensen, and Del. Victor O. Frazer. Shirley Chisholm is the child of Caribbean-born parents and is the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress.[26]
  11. ^ First African American to serve in the Senate from California.[note 10]
  12. ^ First African American to serve in the Senate from Georgia.

References

  1. ^ a b "Ethnic Diversity in the Senate". Senate Historical Office. Retrieved January 20, 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ "The Black Population: 2010" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 31, 2019. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
  3. ^ "Time Line of African American History, 1881–1900". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on January 17, 1999. Retrieved October 22, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c "Obama, Barack, (1961–)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Archived from the original on August 5, 2011. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  5. ^ a b c "Burris, Roland, (1937–)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Archived from the original on January 30, 2009. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  6. ^ "U.S. Senate: African American Senators". ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ a b Walshe, Shushannah (January 30, 2013). "Cory Booker Wins Race for US Senate Seat in New Jersey". ABC News. Archived from the original on October 17, 2013. Retrieved October 16, 2013.
  8. ^ Willon, Phil (November 9, 2016). "Kamala Harris is Elected California's New U.S. senator". LA Times. Archived from the original on November 14, 2016. Retrieved November 18, 2016.
  9. ^ "Senators of the United States: 1789–present" (PDF). Senate Historical Office. January 20, 2021. p. 82. Retrieved January 20, 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ a b "Revels, Hiram Rhodes, (1827–1901)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Archived from the original on January 24, 2009. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  11. ^ "First African American Senator". Historical Minutes Essays, 1878–1920. Senate Historical Office. Archived from the original on December 17, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  12. ^ a b "Former Slave Presides over Senate". Historical Minutes Essays, 1878–1920. Senate Historical Office. Archived from the original on January 21, 2013. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  13. ^ "Bruce, Blanche Kelso, (1841–1898)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Archived from the original on January 25, 2009. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  14. ^ a b "Brooke, Edward William, III, (1919–)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Archived from the original on November 2, 2011. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  15. ^ a b "Moseley Braun, Carol, (1947–)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Archived from the original on October 15, 2012. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  16. ^ "Carol Moseley Braun". Senate Historical Office. Archived from the original on December 17, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  17. ^ "Barack Obama". Senate Historical Office. Archived from the original on December 18, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
  18. ^ "Scott, Tim, (1965–)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
  19. ^ Blake, Aaron; Cillizza, Chris (December 17, 2012). "Nikki Haley appoints Rep. Tim Scott to Senate". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on January 7, 2013. Retrieved January 5, 2013.
  20. ^ "Cowan, William (Mo), (1969–)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Archived from the original on December 6, 2014. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
  21. ^ Phillips, Frank (January 30, 2013). "William 'Mo' Cowan is Governor Deval Patrick's pick to serve as interim US senator". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on January 31, 2013. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
  22. ^ "Booker, Cory Anthony, (1969–)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Archived from the original on November 26, 2014. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
  23. ^ Giambusso, David (October 23, 2013). "Cory Booker planning to be sworn in to Senate on Halloween". The Star-Ledger. NJ.com. Archived from the original on October 26, 2013. Retrieved October 26, 2013.
  24. ^ Wire, Sarah D. (November 8, 2016). "Kamala Harris Will Be the First Indian American U.S. senator and California's First Black Senator". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2 July 2018. Retrieved 1 July 2018. Harris’ mother, Dr. Shyamala Harris, emigrated from India. Her father, Donald Harris, emigrated from Jamaica.
  25. ^ Wasniewski, Matthew, ed. (2008). "Shirley A. Chisholm 1924 — 2005". Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007. United States Government Printing Office. p. 340. ISBN 9780160801945. Archived from the original on 2016-05-22. Retrieved 2017-05-23.
  26. ^ "Harris, Kamala Devi, (1964 – )". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Archived from the original on January 6, 2017. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  27. ^ Sources for label "African American" or "Black" include:
  28. ^ Peoples, Steve; Barrow, Bill; Bynum, Russ (January 6, 2021). "Warnock, Ossoff Win in Georgia, Handing Dems Senate Control". Associated Press. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  29. ^ Office of the Historian. "'Crafting an Identity,' Fifteenth Amendment in Flesh and Blood". Office of the Clerk, House of Representatives of the United States. Archived from the original on November 11, 2013. Retrieved August 7, 2013.

Further reading