Breaking Barriers: Black Americans in Congress
Explore these sample topics of black Americans breaking barriers in Congress. For more, visit the Black Americans in Congress exhibition.
"The Fifteenth Amendment in Flesh and Blood": The Symbolic Generation of Black Americans in Congress, 1870–1887
An essay on the pioneering African-American Representatives elected to the House during Reconstruction, who often braved elections marred by violence and fraud and who argued passionately for legislation promoting racial equality.
The Joint Committee on Reconstruction
A historical highlight about the committee that investigated political and social conditions in the former Confederate states before considering their readmission to the Union.
The Wade–Davis Reconstruction Bill
A historical highlight describing the bill that firmly asserted congressional control over the rehabilitation of the defeated Confederacy.
Historical documents from 1865–1877, including the Wade–Davis bill described above.
Civil Rights Era
Bridging History: Selma and the Voting Rights Act of 1965
A documentary that examines the House's swift legislative response to "Bloody Sunday," when peaceful protesters were brutally attacked by state troopers.
Majority Whip Hale Boggs’ Support of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
A historical highlight addressing Louisiana Representative Hale Boggs’ stirring speech in favor of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Integrating Dick and Jane
A blog about the House investigating the portrayal of minorities in schoolbooks.
Civil Rights Records
A collection of House records related to civil rights.
Featured U.S. Representatives
Joseph Rainey of South Carolina
Representative Rainey was the first African American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, the first African American to preside over the House, and the longest–serving African American during the Reconstruction period.
Robert Smalls of South Carolina
Representative Smalls was a Civil War hero who escaped slavery.
Shirley Chisholm of New York
Representative Chisholm was the first African–American woman in Congress.
Ron Dellums of California
Representative Dellums was the first African-American to serve on and later chair the Armed Services Committee.
Yvonne Burke of California
Representative Burke was the first African-American woman elected to the House from California and the first woman to give birth while serving in Congress.
Eva Clayton of North Carolina
Representative Clayton was the first African-American woman to represent North Carolina.