Blanche K. Bruce (1841–1898) was a black senator and political leader during Reconstruction. Born into slavery in Virginia, Bruce was educated with the children of his white owners. He escaped to freedom during the Civil War. After the war, Bruce settled in Bolivar County, Mississippi, and briefly attended Oberlin College. In Mississippi, Bruce became involved in local politics as a Republican and served at various times as sheriff, tax collector, and superintendent of education. In 1875 he was elected to the US Senate. As the nation’s second black senator after Hiram Revels (and the first to serve a complete term), Bruce championed civil rights and education for African Americans. He also supported Mississippi River improvements and helped to investigate the failure of the Freedmen’s Savings Bank.

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