Bruce, Blanche K.


1st African American US Senator to serve a full term, 1st to preside over the US Senate


Autograph ID: 6988
Condition: Very good
Description: “(1841-1898) African-American Republican US Senator from Mississippi 1875-81, 1st elected black Senator to serve a full term. Born into slavery in Virginia, his father, a white Virginia planter, was his mother’s master. He was educated along with his white half-brother, and was legally freed by his father who arranged for an apprenticeship so Bruce could learn a trade. Bruce taught school and attended Oberlin College for two years, then worked as a steamboat porter on the Mississippi. In 1864, he moved to Hannibal, Mo. and established a school for black children. In 1868, during Reconstruction, Bruce relocated to Bolivar in NW Mississippi, and purchased a Delta plantation, becoming a wealthy landowner of several thousand acres. He was appointed Tallahatchie County voter registrar and tax assessor before he was elected Bolivar County sheriff and other county positions, including tax collector and supervisor of education, while he also edited a local newspaper. He became State Senate sergeant-at-arms in 1870. In February 1874, Bruce was elected to the US Senate, 2nd African American to serve in the Senate. On Feb. 14, 1879, he presided over the Senate, the 1st African American (and only former slave) to have done so. At the 1880 GOP Convention in Chicago, he received 8 votes for VP, 1st African American to win any votes for national office at a major party’s nominating convention. In 1881, Bruce was named Registrar of the Treasury by President Garfield, 1st African American to have his signature featured on US paper currency. He was appointed DC Recorder of Deeds 1890-93 with a $30,000 annual salary. He also served on the District of Columbia Board of Trustees of Public Schools 1892-95. He was appointed Registrar of the Treasury a 2nd time by President McKinley, serving 1897 to his 1898 death.

Signed large 4 x 5 ½ fragment of an autograph album page, no place (Washington), no date (ca. 1878), adds “Rosedale/Mississippi” below his signature likely while US Senator.”
Type: Signature

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