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February 25, 1870: America’s First Black Senator Is Sworn In
Hiram Rhodes Revels, the country’s first African American member of U.S. Congress, took his seat on this day in 1870, representing the state of Mississippi. Southern Democrats, who were for the most part supporters of segregation, tried to block his nomination.
Just before the Senate agreed to admit a black man to its ranks on February 25, Republican Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts sized up the importance of the moment: “All men are created equal, says the great Declaration,” Sumner roared, “and now a great act attests this verity. Today we make the Declaration a reality…. The Declaration was only half established by Independence. The greatest duty remained behind. In assuring the equal rights of all we complete the work.”
Revel’s term lasted little more than a year. Hiram Rhodes Revels impressed many political observers with his oratorical gifts and moderate temperament.
Dive deeper into the story behind Revel’s election with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.
Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography was published Tuesday, detailing her campaign against the Taliban for women’s education. The book’s release comes amid speculation that she may become the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, to be announced Friday.
Co-written with British journalist Christina Lamb, “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban” recounts the 16-year-old’s terror as two gunmen boarded her school bus last October in Swat, Pakistan, and shot her in the head.
"My friends say he fired three shots, one after another," she writes.
The autobiography talks about Yousafzai’s life as an activist under the Taliban’s brutal rule in northwestern Pakistan in the mid-2000s, when the group banned female education and bombed local schools. The book also hints at her ambition to enter Pakistani politics, and talks about her father’s brief flirtation with Islamic fundamentalism as a youngster.
Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images