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African Americans in Senate History

The role of African Americans in Senate and Capitol history is not limited to those who served in elected office. One of the most lasting contributions of African Americans to Senate history, for example, came with the Capitol’s construction. Historical evidence shows that many of the laborers and artisans who built the Capitol were African American, both free and enslaved. Philip Reid’s mechanical expertise helped place the Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol Dome in 1863. Among the first African Americans to be hired in professional clerical positions were Robert Ogle and Jesse Nichols. As a Senate staff member, Christine McCreary challenged the de facto segregation of Capitol Hill in the 1950s and 1960s. Alfonso Lenhardt, who served as sergeant at arms from 2001 to 2003, was the first African American to hold one of the top two administrative positions in the Senate. On July 7, 2003, the Senate appointed Dr. Barry C. Black as Senate chaplain, another first for African Americans in the Senate.

 

Explore Senate Art

Featured here: Blanche Kelso Bruce by Simmie Lee Knox

Explore the Senate's collection of paintings, sculpture, graphic art, and decorative art, which comprises over 2,500 objects that represent the history of the institution, the Capitol, and the nation. Included on this website are interactive exhibits and informative essays that add context to these works.

Landmark Legislation

During the 19th and 20th centuries Congress passed landmark legislation to abolish slavery, to extend civil and legal protections to former slaves and their descendants, to end segregation in public and private facilities, and to protect voting rights for newly emancipated people. Read about landmark civil rights legislation by selecting the links below.

The District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act

The Civil War and Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution

Civil Rights Act of 1875

Civil Rights Act of 1964

 
  

State of the Union Address

Nominations

Minorities in the Senate

Black History Month



Each state has its own unique place in Senate history. Explore the States in the Senate website to learn about your state.


View online features that explore the Senate's wartime experience.


HISTORY

Senate Historical Office
Facts & Milestones
Historical Statistics
Senate Archives
Photographic Collection
Senate Timeline
Classic Senate Speeches
Featured Biographies
Past Features

ART

Office of the Senate Curator
Publications
Image Reproduction Requests
Senate Chamber Desks


 
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