Reconstruction was the time between 1863 and 1877 when the U.S. focused on abolishing slavery, destroying the Confederacy, and reconstructing the nation and the Constitution and is also the general history of the post-Civil War era in the U.S. between 1865 and 1877. Under Abraham Lincoln, presidential reconstruction began in each state as soon as federal troops controlled most of the state. The usual ending date is 1877, when the Compromise of 1877 saw the collapse of the last Republican state governments in the South
Reconstruction opened many doors for its newly freed African American citizens. One the many doors, were those of political office. Though these doors opened for blacks in a variety of places, the social origins of most were very similar. Very few of these leaders were wealthy, educated, or well traveled before assuming public office. Even fewer of these men had military experience. Furthermore, most were ex-slaves.
However, this lack of experiences did not hold them back from making great achievements. These great leaders helped pave the way for universal public education, helped change laws regarding imprisonment for debt and inheritance for women, and introduced state's first civil rights bill in state House of Representatives and Senate. Alabama leaders helped introduce the Republican Party to Alabama; and helped make it a formidable force. African American leaders also established first black banks and labor union and assisted in establishing schools and churches.
But who were these great leaders that varied so vastly and contributed so greatly?
Historian, Eric Foner, identifies over 1500 African American officeholders during the Reconstruction period (1865-1876). All were Republicans. These men included Hiram Revels, Joseph Hayne Rainey, and Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs.
Hiram Rhodes Revels was born September 27, 1822. He was the first African American to serve in the United States Senate and because he preceded any African American in the House, he was the first African American in the U.S. Congress as well. He represented Mississippi in 1870 and 1871 during Reconstruction. As of 2008, Revels is one of only five African Americans ever to have served in the United States Senate. Revels was born free in Fayetteville, North Carolina, of a free father of mixed white and black ancestry, and a white mother of Scottish heritage. A black woman tutored him for his early education. At the time, the state legislature elected US senators. Revels was elected by a vote of 81 to 15 in the Mississippi State Senate to finish the term of one of the state's two seats in the US Senate left vacant since the Civil War. He served on both the Committee on Education and Labor and the Committee on the District of Columbia. Much of the Senate's attention focused on Reconstruction issues. While Radical Republicans called for continued punishment of...