Lott Seeks Postage Stamp Honoring First African American Senator - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Lott Seeks Postage Stamp Honoring First African American Senator

The first African American to serve a full term in the United States Senate represented the State of Mississippi, and U.S. Senator Trent Lott has asked the Senate to honor him with the issuance of a commemorative postage stamp.      

Blanche Kelso Bruce was elected to the Senate in 1874 by the Mississippi State Legislature where he served from 1875 until 1881.      

"On February 14, 1879, he broke a second barrier by becoming the first African American to preside over a Senate session," Senator Lott said.  "He was a leader in the nationwide fight for African American rights, fighting for desegregation of the Army and protection of voting rights."

Blanche Kelso Bruce was born into slavery near Farmville, Virginia, on March 1, 1841, and spent his early years in Virginia and Missouri.  He was 20 years old when the Civil War broke out. He tried to enlist in the Union Army but was rejected because of his race. 

Lott said he then turned his attention to teaching, and while in Missouri organized that state's first school for African Americans. 

In 1869 he moved to Mississippi to become a planter on a cotton plantation, and the Magnolia State is where he became active in Republican politics. He rose in Mississippi politics from membership on the Mississippi Levee Board, as the sheriff and tax collector for Bolivar County, and as the Sergeant at Arms for the Mississippi State Senate.      

"It was Blanche Kelso Bruce's perseverance, selfless public service and commitment to Mississippi that led the Mississippi State Legislature to elect him to serve in the U.S. Senate," Lott said.      

In the Senate, Bruce served on the Pensions, Manufacturers, Education and Labor committees.  He chaired the Committee on River Improvements and the Select Committee to Investigate the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company.      

Senator Bruce left the Senate in 1881 and was appointed by President James Garfield as the Registrar of the Treasury, a position he also held in 1897.  He subsequently received appointments from Presidents Chester Arthur, Benjamin Harrison and William McKinley.       Senator Bruce joined the board of Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he received an honorary degree.  He died in Washington on March 17, 1898, at the age of 57.      

"Four years ago, on September 17, 2002, in my position as Senate Majority Leader, I joined with Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut in honoring this revered adopted son of Mississippi by unveiling the portrait of Blanche Kelso Bruce in the U.S. Capitol," Lott said. 

"Today I ask that we further honor this great statesman and pioneer by introducing legislation to issue the Senator Blanche Kelso Bruce commemorative postage stamp. Mississippi takes great pride in our leaders who often quietly, with little fanfare, blaze paths for the rest of the nation to follow. Senator Blanche Kelso Bruce is one such great pioneer, and I call on my colleagues to join me in honoring him."      

Lott's bill, S. 3974, would direct the Postmaster General to issue a first class commemorative stamp in honor of Senator Bruce which would be placed on sale as soon as practicable.

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