Blanche Bruce

Last updated

Blanche Bruce
Blanche Bruce - Brady-Handy.jpg
Register of the Treasury
In office
December 3, 1897 March 17, 1898
President William McKinley
Preceded by Fount Tillman
Succeeded by Judson Lyons
In office
May 21, 1881 June 5, 1885
President James A. Garfield
Chester A. Arthur
Grover Cleveland
Preceded by Glenni Scofield
Succeeded by William Rosecrans
United States Senator
from Mississippi
In office
March 4, 1875 March 4, 1881
Preceded by Henry R. Pease
Succeeded by James Z. George
Personal details
Born
Blanche Kelso Bruce

(1841-03-01)March 1, 1841
Farmville, Virginia, U.S.
DiedMarch 17, 1898(1898-03-17) (aged 57)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting place Woodlawn Cemetery
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Josephine Willson
Children Roscoe
Education Oberlin College

Blanche Kelso Bruce (March 1, 1841 March 17, 1898) was born a slave in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Later becoming a politician, he represented Mississippi as a Republican in the United States Senate from 1875 to 1881. He was the first elected African-American senator to serve a full term (Hiram R. Revels, also of Mississippi, was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate but did not complete a full term). [1]

Contents

Early life and education

Bruce's house at 909 M Street NW in Washington, D.C. was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1975 BKBruce-house WashingtonDC.jpg
Bruce's house at 909 M Street NW in Washington, D.C. was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1975

Bruce was born into slavery in 1841 in Prince Edward County, Virginia near Farmville to Polly Bruce, an African-American woman who served as a domestic slave. His father was her master, Pettis Perkinson, a white Virginia planter. Bruce was treated comparatively well by his father, who educated him together with a legitimate half-brother. When Blanche Bruce was young, he played with his half-brother. His father legally freed Blanche and arranged for an apprenticeship so he could learn a trade. [2]

Career

Bruce taught school and attended for two years Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. He next worked as a steamboat porter on the Mississippi River. In 1864, he moved to Hannibal, Missouri, where he established a school for black children.

In 1868, during Reconstruction, Bruce relocated to Bolivar near Cleveland in northwestern Mississippi, at which he purchased a Mississippi Delta plantation. [3] He became a wealthy landowner of several thousand acres in the Mississippi Delta. He was appointed to the positions of Tallahatchie County registrar of voters and tax assessor before he won an election for sheriff in Bolivar County. [4] He later was elected to other county positions, including tax collector and supervisor of education, while he also edited a local newspaper. He became sergeant-at-arms for the Mississippi State Senate in 1870. [3]

In February 1874, Bruce was elected to the U.S. Senate, the second African American to serve in the upper house of Congress. On February 14, 1879, Bruce presided over the U.S. Senate, becoming the first African American (and the only former slave) to have done so. [2] In 1880, James Z. George was elected to succeed Bruce.

At the 1880 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Bruce became the first African American to win any votes for national office at a major party's nominating convention, with eight votes for vice president. The presidential nominee that year was Ohio's James A. Garfield, who narrowly won election over the Democrat Winfield Scott Hancock. [5]

Bruce served by appointment as the District of Columbia recorder of deeds from 1890 to 1893; his salary was $30,000 per year. [6] He also served on the District of Columbia Board of Trustees of Public Schools from 1892 to 1895. [7] He was a participant in the March 5, 1897 meeting to celebrate the memory of Frederick Douglass and the American Negro Academy led by Alexander Crummell. [8] He was appointed as Register of the Treasury a second time in 1897 by President William McKinley and served until his death from diabetes complications in 1898. [9]

Relationship with other African Americans

On the Bruce plantation in Mississippi, black sharecroppers lived in "flimsy wooden shacks," working in similar oppressive conditions to that of white-owned estates. [10]

After his Senate term expired, Bruce remained in Washington, D.C., secured a succession of Republican patronage jobs and stumped for Republican candidates across the country. There, he also acquired a large townhouse and summer home, and presided over black high society. [10]

One newspaper wrote that Bruce did not approve of the designation "colored men." He often said, "I am a Negro and proud of it." [3]

Personal life

On June 24, 1878, Bruce married Josephine Beal Willson (October 29, 1853 February 15, 1923), a fair-skinned socialite of Cleveland, Ohio, amid great publicity; the couple traveled to Europe for a four-month honeymoon. [11]

Their only child, Roscoe Conkling Bruce, was born in 1879. He was named for U.S. Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York, Bruce's mentor in the Senate. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Blanche Bruce on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans. [12]

In the fall of 1899, Josephine Bruce accepted the position of principal at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. [13] While visiting Josephine at Tuskegee, during the summer break of his senior year at Harvard, Roscoe Bruce met Booker T. Washington and secured a position at Tuskegee as head of the Academic Department. [13]

Honors and legacy

Blanche Kelso Bruce (2001) Blanche Kelso Bruce (2001).jpg
Blanche Kelso Bruce (2001)

In 1975, the residence of Bruce in the Shaw neighborhood was made a National Historic Landmark.

In October 1999, the U.S. Senate commissioned a portrait of Bruce. African-American Washington D.C. artist Simmie Knox was selected in 2000 to paint the portrait, which was unveiled in the Capitol in 2001.

A historical highway marker marking Bruce's birthplace at the intersection of highway 360 and 623 near Green Bay, Prince Edward County, Virginia was unveiled by the African American Heritage Preservation Foundation on March 1, 2006. [14]

Bruce School

In July 1898, the District of Columbia public school trustees ordered that a then new public school building on Marshall Street in Park View be named the Bruce School in his honor. [15] Marshall Street later became Kenyon Street and the Bruce School became Caesar Chavez Prep Middle School in 2009, named for the Mexican-American labor organizer Cesar Chavez. In 1973, the all-black Bruce School and James Monroe school were combined in a new campus as the integrated Bruce-Monroe. In 2008, the school was relocated to Park View and the old building demolished in 2009.

See also

Related Research Articles

P. B. S. Pinchback American politician

Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was an American publisher and politician, a Union Army officer, and the first African American to become governor of a U.S. state. A Republican, Pinchback served as the 24th Governor of Louisiana from December 9, 1872, to January 13, 1873. He was one of the most prominent African-American officeholders during the Reconstruction Era.

James L. Alcorn Confederate Army general

James Lusk Alcorn was a Republican governor and a U.S. senator during the Reconstruction of his adopted state of Mississippi.

African Americans in the United States Congress

The first African Americans to serve in the United States Congress were Republicans elected during the Reconstruction Era. After slaves were emancipated and granted citizenship rights, freedmen gained political representation in the Southern United States for the first time. White Democrats regained political power in state legislatures across the South and worked to restore white supremacist laws. By the presidential election of 1876, only three state legislatures were not controlled by white Democrats. The Compromise of 1877 completed the period of Redemption by white Democratic Southerners, with the withdrawal of federal troops from the South. State legislatures began to pass Jim Crow laws to establish racial segregation and restrict labor rights, movement, and organizing by blacks. They passed some laws to restrict voter registration, aimed at suppressing the black vote.

Hiram Rhodes Revels 19th-century American politician

Hiram Rhodes Revels was a Republican U.S. Senator, minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and a college administrator. Born free in North Carolina, he later lived and worked in Ohio, where he voted before the Civil War. He became the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress when he was elected to the United States Senate as a Republican to represent Mississippi in 1870 and 1871 during the Reconstruction era.

Roscoe Conkling American politician

Roscoe Conkling was a lawyer and politician from New York who served both as a member of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. He was the leader of the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party, the first Republican senator from New York to be elected for three terms, and the last person to turn down a U.S. Supreme Court appointment after he had already been confirmed to the post. While in the House, Conkling served as bodyguard for Representative Thaddeus Stevens, a sharp-tongued anti-slavery representative, and fully supported the Republican War effort. Conkling, who was temperate and detested tobacco, was known for his physical condition, maintained through regular exercise and boxing, an unusual devotion for his time. Conkling was elected to the Senate in 1867 as a leading Radical, who supported the rights of African Americans during Reconstruction.

Naturalization Act of 1870

The Naturalization Act of 1870 was a United States federal law that created a system of controls for the naturalization process and penalties for fraudulent practices. It is also noted for extending the naturalization process to "aliens of African nativity and to persons of African descent" while also revoking the citizenship of naturalized Chinese Americans.

Roscoe Brown Tuskagee airman

Roscoe Conkling Brown Jr. was one of the Tuskegee Airmen and a squadron commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group He was appointed to this position in June 1945, which was after V-E Day. During combat, he served as a flight leader and operations officer only. He graduated from the Tuskegee Flight School on March 12, 1944 as member of class 44-C-SE and served in the U.S. Army Air Forces in Europe during World War II. During this period, Captain Brown shot down an advanced German Me 262 jet fighter and a FW-190 fighter. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Brown was born in Washington, D.C. in 1922. His father, Roscoe C. Brown Sr. (1884–1963), was a dentist and an official in the United States Public Health Service who was born as George Brown and had changed his name to honor Roscoe Conkling, a strong supporter of the rights of African Americans during Reconstruction. His mother was the former Vivian Berry, a teacher.

Lawrence Otis Graham is an African-American attorney and New York Times best-selling author.

Blanche K. Bruce House United States historic place

The Blanche K. Bruce House is a historic house at 909 M Street NW in Washington, D.C.. Built in 1865, it was a home of slave-born Blanche K. Bruce, who was the first African-American to serve a full term in the U.S. Senate. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1975.

The 1867 United States Senate election in New York was held on January 15, 1867, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.

The 1873 United States Senate election in New York was held on January 21, 1873, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.

The 1879 United States Senate election in New York was held on January 21, 1879, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.

The 1881 United States Senate election in New York was held on January 18, 1881, by the New York State Legislature to elect a U.S. Senator to represent the State of New York in the United States Senate.

The United States Senate elections of 1878 and 1879 were elections which had the Democratic Party retake control of the United States Senate for the first time since before the Civil War.

Roscoe Conkling Bruce American educator

Roscoe Conkling Bruce, Senior was an African-American educator who was known for stressing the value of practical industrial and business skills as opposed to academic disciplines. Later he administered the Dunbar Apartments housing complex in Harlem, New York City, and was editor in chief of the Harriet Tubman Publishing Company.

Roscoe Simmons American journalist

Roscoe Conkling Simmons was an American orator, journalist, and political activist. The nephew of Booker T. Washington, he is noted as the first African-American columnist employed by the Chicago Tribune and for his longtime influence on and participation in the United States Republican Party.

Jesse Freeman Boulden

Jesse Freeman Boulden (1820–1899) was a Baptist pastor and politician in Chicago and Mississippi. He founded a number of churches, including Olivet Baptist Church in Chicago. He served in the Mississippi House of Representatives during the Reconstruction Era. He also helped manage the Senate campaigns of Hiram Rhodes Revels and Blanche Kelso Bruce.

Josephine Beall Willson Bruce American activist

Josephine Beall Willson Bruce was a women's rights activist in the late 1890s and early 1900s. She spent a majority of her time working for the National Organization of Afro-American Women. She was a prominent socialite in Washington, D.C. throughout most of her life where she lived with her husband, United States Senator Blanche Bruce. In addition to these accomplishments, she was the first black teacher in the public school system in Cleveland, and she eventually became a highly regarded educator at Tuskegee University in Alabama.

References

  1. Wikisource-logo.svg  Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). "Bruce, Blanche Kelso"  . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography . New York: D. Appleton.
  2. 1 2 Glass, Andrew (February 14, 2008). "Freed slave presides over Senate: February 14, 1879". The Politico .
  3. 1 2 3 Wright, John Aaron (2002). Discovering African American St. Louis: A Guide to Historic Sites. St. Louis, Missouri: Missouri History Museum.
  4. Rev. William J. Simmons, Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive, and Rising, 1887. Pgs. 699-703. Geo. M. Rewell & Co., 1887
  5. Turkel, Stanley (2005). Heroes of the American Reconstruction: Profiles of Sixteen Educators, Politicians and Activists. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. p. 6. ISBN   0-7864-1943-1. Senator Bruce was also the first African-American to preside over the Senate and the first African-American whose signature appeared on all the nation's paper currency (as Register of the Treasury starting on May 18, 1881)
  6. "Blanche K. Bruce's New Office", Philadelphia Inquirer, January 30, 1890, p. 1.
  7. The Executive Documents of the House of Representatives for the third session of the fifty-third Congress 1894-1895. Government Printing Office. 1895. p. 819. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  8. Seraile, William. Bruce Grit: The Black Nationalist Writings of John Edward Bruce. Univ. of Tennessee Press, 2003. p .110-111.
  9. "Blanche K. Bruce". Biography. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  10. 1 2 "Rise and Fall of the House of Bruce". The Washington Post. Washington, D.C. July 2, 2006.
  11. Gardner, Eric (January 2006). Bruce, Josephine Beall Willson : African American National Biography. Oxford University Pres. ISBN   9780195301731.
  12. Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN   1-57392-963-8.
  13. 1 2 "Roscoe Conkling Bruce and the District of Columbia's Public Schools, 1906 to 1921".
  14. African American Heritage Preservation Foundation, Inc. (February 13, 2006). "Dedication Ceremony honoring ex-slave Blanche Kelso Bruce, 1st Black senator to serve a full term". History News Network.
  15. Annual Report of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia for the year ended June 30, 1899. Government Printing Office. 1899. p. 36.

Bibliography

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Henry R. Pease
United States Senator (Class 1) from Mississippi
1875–1881
Served alongside: James L. Alcorn, Lucius Lamar
Succeeded by
James Z. George
New office Chair of the Senate Mississippi River Levees Committee
1877–1879
Succeeded by
???
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Stephen Wallace Dorsey
Baby of the Senate
1879–1881
Succeeded by
Arthur Pue Gorman
Political offices
Preceded by
Glenni Scofield
Register of the Treasury
1881–1885
Succeeded by
William Rosecrans
Preceded by
Fount Tillman
Register of the Treasury
1897–1898
Succeeded by
Judson Lyons