Hiram Rhodes Revels (September 27, 1827 – January 16, 1901) was the first African American to serve in the United States Senate. Because he preceded any African American in the House, he was the first African American in the U.S. Congress as well. He represented Mississippi in 1870 and 1871 during Reconstruction. As of 2011, Revels is one of only six African Americans ever to have served in the United States Senate.
Revels was born free in Fayetteville, North Carolina, of a free father of mixed white and black ancestry, and a white mother of Scottish heritage. He was tutored by a black woman for his early education. In 1838 he went to live with his brother, Elias B. Revels, in Lincolnton, North Carolina, and was apprenticed as a barber in his brother's shop. Elias Revels died in 1841, and his widow Mary turned over her assets to Hiram before she remarried.
Revels attended the Union County Quaker Seminary in Indiana, and from 1856–57, Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. He also studied at a black seminary in Ohio. Revels was ordained a minister in 1845. As a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Revels preached in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas and Maryland in the 1850s. "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." In 1845 he became a minister in Baltimore, Maryland, and set up a private school.