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Template:Infobox Senator Blanche Kelso Bruce (March 1, 1841 – March 17, 1898) was a U.S. politician who represented Mississippi as a Republican in the U.S. Senate from 1875 to 1881 and was the first elected African American senator to serve a full term. Hiram R. Revels, also of Mississippi, was the first to ever serve in the U.S. Congress, but did not serve a full term.

Biography[]

Bruce was born in Prince Edward County, Virginia near Farmville to Pettis Perkinson, a white Virginia plantation owner, and an African-American house slave named Polly Bruce. He was treated comparatively well by his father, who educated him together with his legitimate half-brother. When Blanche Bruce was young, he played with his half-brother. As Blanche Bruce was born enslaved, because of his mother's status, his father legally freed him and arranged for an apprenticeship so he could learn a trade.[1]

File:BKBruce-house WashingtonDC.jpg

Bruce's house at 909 M Street NW in Washington, D.C. was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1975

In 1850, Bruce moved to Missouri after becoming a printer's apprentice. After the Union Army rejected his application to fight in the Civil War, Bruce taught school and attended Oberlin College in Ohio for two years. Then he went to work as a steamboat porter on the Mississippi River. In 1864, he moved to Hannibal, Missouri, where he established a school for blacks.

During Reconstruction, Bruce 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. On February 14, 1879, Bruce presided over the U.S. Senate becoming the first African-American (and the only former slave) to do so[1]. In 1880, James Z. George was elected to succeed Bruce.

At the 1880 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Bruce became the first African-American to win any votes at a major party's nominating convention, winning 8 votes for vice president. In 1881, Bruce was appointed by President James A. Garfield to be the Register of the Treasury, making Bruce the first African-American whose signature was represented on U.S. paper currency.[2] Bruce served as the District of Columbia recorder of deeds in 1891–93, and again as register of the treasury until his death in 1898.

On June 24, 1878, Bruce married Josephine Beal Willson (1853–February 15, 1923) of Cleveland, Ohio amid great publicity; the couple traveled to Europe for a four-month honeymoon. Their only child, Roscoe Conkling Bruce was born in 1879. He was named for New York Senator Roscoe Conkling, Bruce's mentor in the Senate. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Blanche Bruce on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[3]

See also[]

  • List of African-American firsts

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Glass, Andrew (February 14, 2008). "Freed slave presides over Senate: February 14, 1879". The Politico. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0208/8508.html. 
  2. Turkel, Stanley (2005). Heroes of the American Reconstruction: Profiles of Sixteen Educators, Politicians and Activists. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. p. 6. ISBN 0-786-41943-1. http://books.google.com/books?id=cPzVqTea6JgC&printsec=frontcover#PPA7-IA5,M1. "Senator Bruce was also the first African-American to preside over the Senate and the first African-American whose signature appeared on all the nation's paper currency (as Register of the Treasury starting on May 18, 1881)" 
  3. Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-963-8. 

Bibliography[]

  • Graham, Lawrence Otis (2006). The Senator and the Socialite: The True Story of America's First Black Dynasty. New York: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0060985134. 

External links[]

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