Hiram R. Revels was born on September 27, 1827, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Revels was a minister who, in 1870, became the first African-American United States senator, representing the state of Mississippi. He served for a year before leaving to become the president of a historically black college. Revels died on January 16, 1901, in Aberdeen, Mississippi.
Revels was born free in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to free people of color, parents of African and European ancestry. He was tutored by a black woman for his early education. In 1838 he went to live with his older brother, Elias B. Revels, in Lincolnton, North Carolina, and was apprenticed as a barber in his brother’s shop. After Elias Revels died in 1841, his widow Mary transferred the shop to Hiram before she remarried. Revels attended the Union County Quaker Seminary in Indiana, and Darke County Seminary in Ohio.
In 1845 Revels was ordained as a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME); he served as a preacher and religious teacher throughout the Midwest: in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kansas. “At times, I met with a great deal of opposition,” he later recalled. “I was imprisoned in Missouri in 1854 for preaching the gospel to Negroes, though I was never subjected to violence. During these years, he voted in Ohio.
He studied religion from 1855 to 1857 at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. He became a minister in a Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, Maryland, where he also served as a principal for a black high school.
As a chaplain in the United States Army, Revels helped recruit and organize two black Union regiments during the Civil War in Maryland and Missouri. He took part at the battle of Vicksburg in Mississippi.
In addition to his administrative and teaching roles, Revels remained involved with the Methodist Church, continuing to preach publicly until the end of his life. Revels died on January 16, 1901, while attending a meeting of Methodist ministers in Aberdeen, Mississippi.
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