Senator Blanche Kelso Bruce

Blanche Kelso Bruce rose from slavery to the US Senate. Born a Virginia slave, Bruce was taught by his young master’s tutor. He left his master at the beginning of the Civil War and moved to Hannibal, Missouri, where he taught school briefly before continuing his education at Oberlin College in Ohio. After the war, Bruce worked on a Mississippi steamer for a year before settling in Bolivar County, where he became a successful planter. Active in Republican state politics, Bruce served as sheriff and tax collector (1872-1875), before the state legislature elected him to the US Senate, the first African American to serve a full term (1875-1881).

Senator Blanche Kelso Bruce - Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, HABS DC,WASH,399--1