Hiram R. Revels, first African-American in U.S. Congress, helped start Independence church

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Hiram R. Revels was the first African-American to serve in U.S. Congress, but he also has ties to Independence, Missouri.   

He was born to free parents in Fayetteville, North Carolina on Sept. 27, 1827, according to the U.S. House of Representatives. Revels attended school and worked as a barber for a few years.

Later, Revels attended the Beech Grove Quaker Seminary in Liberty, Indiana and the Darke County Seminary for black students in Ohio. In 1845, Revels was ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

He traveled the country carrying out religious work and educating fellow African-Americans in Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee. Later, he accepted a position with the Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland.

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When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Revels helped recruit two black regiments from Maryland. In 1862, when black soldiers were permitted to fight, Revels served as the chaplain for a black regiment.

According to the Independence Tourism Department, Revels was sent to Independence, Missouri in 1865 to organize an AME church. After meetings with potential congregants the church was officially organized on April 17, 1866. Revels briefly served as the congregation’s minister.

Revels returned to Mississippi and was elected as a Natchez, Mississippi alderman in 1868. In 1869, he won a seat in the Mississippi state senate. In 1870, the Mississippi state legislature voted Revels into one of Mississippi’s vacant U.S. Senate seats.

It's Black History Month. Learn about other prominent African-Americans in the Kansas City area:

KC's first African-American mayor Emanuel Cleaver II

KC jazz pioneer Charlie "Bird" Parker

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