Bishop's Blog

Senator Who Prayed—Hiram Revels

By Bishop Wellington Boone  |   |  Category: Black American Revival

The first Black American to serve in the U.S. Congress (either House or Senate) was a minister, Hiram Rhodes Revels [left lower row in picture above]. He was born free in North Carolina and became a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He established a school for freedmen in St. Louis. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Revels assisted in recruiting Blacks into the military and served as a chaplain.

After the war ended, Mississippi was restored to the Union under conditions set by those who had defeated the Confederate States, which included Mississippi, and were required to grant voting rights to Black citizens. Because Blacks could vote they were able to elect other Blacks to public office for the first time.

Revels was serving as a state senator from Mississippi when he was chosen to serve as a U.S. Senator from Mississippi (he served from 1870-1871). Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, president of the Confederacy (1861-1865), once held the other U.S. Senate seat.

One of Revel’s colleagues, John Roy Lynch (the first Black Speaker of the House in Mississippi and U.S. Congressman from 1873-1877 and 1882-1883) wrote of Revel’s inspiring prayer that opened the Mississippi legislature in January 1870:

“That prayer,—one of the most impressive and eloquent prayers that had ever been delivered in the Senate Chamber,—made Revels a United States Senator. He made a profound impression upon all who heard him. It impressed those who heard it that Revels was not only a man of great natural ability but that he was also a man of superior attainments.” Read more in John Roy Lynch, The Facts of Reconstruction (The Neale Company, 1913).

Sen. Hiram Revels (1827-1901) was a Black legislator from Mississippi known for his public prayers. We need examples like him today—men of prayer governing our nation, selected by other men who appreciated and applauded a praying Senator.

“When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice” (Proverbs 29:2 NLT).