Sunday, November 30, 2014
Blanche Kelso Bruce-1st African American to Preside over the U.S. Senate
Blanche Kelso Bruce was a U.S. politician who represented Mississippi as a Republican in the U.S. Senate from 1875 to 1881; of mixed race, he was the 1st elected black senator to serve a Full term. Hiram R. Revels, also of Mississippi, was the 1st African American to serve in the U.S. Senate, but did not serve a full term. Bruce was born into slavery in 1841 in Prince Edward County, Virginia near Farmville to Polly Bruce, an enslaved African-American woman who served as a domestic slave. His father was her master, Pettis Perkinson, a white Virginia plantation owner. Bruce was treated comparatively well by his father, who educated him together with a legitimate half-brother. His father legally freed Blanche and arranged for an apprenticeship so he could learn a trade. Bruce taught school and attended Oberlin College in Ohio for two years. He next worked as a steamboat porter on the Mississippi River. In 1864, he moved to Hannibal, Missouri, where he established a school for black children. Bruce moved to Mississippi, where he became a wealthy landowner in the Mississippi Delta. He was appointed to the positions of Tallahatchie County registrar of voters and tax assessor before winning an election for sheriff in Bolivar County. He later was elected to other county positions, including tax collector and supervisor of education, while he also edited a local newspaper. In February 1874, Bruce was elected by the state legislature to the Senate as a Republican, becoming the 2nd African American to serve in the upper house of Congress. On February 14, 1879, Bruce presided over the U.S. Senate, becoming the 1st African American (and the only former slave) to do so. In 1881, Bruce was appointed by President Garfield to be the Register of the Treasury, becoming the 1st African American to have his signature featured on U.S. paper currency.