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Hiram R. Revels was sworn in as the first African-American senator 135 years ago Friday. Senator Revels was born to free parents in North Carolina in 1822. Though it was illegal for any black (slave or free) to read, Revels was secretly taught. He left home to pursue his education in Indiana and Ohio, becoming an ordained preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. During the Civil War, he organized free black regiments and was a Union chaplain. Moving to Natchez, Miss., at war's end, Revels was elected state senator. A year later, he was voted to fill out the unexpired term of a senator who had left to eventually become president of the Confederacy: Jefferson Davis. Revels served until March 1871.

Source: The State Library of North Carolina (statelibrary.dcr.state.nc.us); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (bioguide.congress.gov); PageWise (www.pagewise.com).

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