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The first African-American Senators and Representatives to serve in Congress -- all Republicans:   (Left to right) Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi, Representatives Benjamin Turner of Alabama, Robert DeLarge of South Carolina, Josiah Walls of Florida, Jefferson Long of Georgia, Joseph Rainey and Robert Elliott of South Carolina.   (1871)

In February, Republican Members of Congress are celebrating Black History Month by marking our 150th anniversary of Republican civil rights achievement.

The Republican Party was founded 150 years ago to oppose pro-slavery Democrat policies.   Against fierce Democrat opposition, we enacted the 13th Amendment banning slavery, the 14th Amendment extending the Bill of Rights to the states, and the 15th Amendment granting voting rights to African-Americans.   For the first 80 years of the Republican Party's existence, we were the only major party that provided a political home for African-Americans.   Until well into the 20th century, every African-American Member of Congress was a Republican.   The same was true for nearly all state legislators and other elected officials throughout the country. The Republican Party is now, and always has been, the most consistent champion of equal rights for all citizens.

In 1920, African-American women joined African-American men at the polling booths.   Thirty-two years earlier, Republican U.S. Senator Aaron Sargent of California successfully offered the Susan B. Anthony amendment to the Constitution, giving women of all races the right to vote; and notwithstanding strong Democrat opposition, this Republican-sponsored amendment was ratified in 1920.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, a watershed of the modern-day civil rights movement.   That Supreme Court decision was written by former Republican Governor and GOP vice presidential candidate Earl Warren, who was appointed Chief Justice by President Eisenhower.

Some additional key dates to observe during Black History Month:

February 3, 1870 - Republican-sponsored 15th Amendment is ratified, extending right to vote to all Americans regardless of race

February 5, 1866 - Republican U.S. Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (PA) introduces legislation, opposed by Democrat President Andrew Johnson and never enacted, to implement "40 acres and a mule" relief by distributing land to former slaves

February 12, 1909 - African-American Republicans and women's suffragists Ida Wells and Mary Terrell join as founders of the NAACP, on the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth

February 20, 1895 - Death of Republican activist, escaped slave, author, abolition leader, and civil rights champion Frederick Douglass

February 21, 1863 - Republican Governor John Andrew establishes the famous 54th Massachusetts Regiment of African-American U. S. troops, in which two of Frederick Douglass' sons served during the Civil War

February 24, 1992 - President George H. W. Bush appoints African-American Edward Perkins as Ambassador to the United Nations

February 25, 1870 - A former slave, Republican Hiram Revels (MS), becomes the first African-American U.S. Senator


Black History Month should draw our attention to events not just during February, but year-round.   Some additional highlights to note throughout the year:

January 1, 1863 - Emancipation Proclamation takes effect

January 22, 2001 - Condoleezza Rice becomes
National Security Advisor for President George W. Bush

January 31, 1865 - 13th Amendment banning slavery passed by the U. S. House of Representatives

April 15, 1929 - Republican Representative, Oscar De Priest, becomes the first African-American in Congress since 1901

May 6, 1960 - To protect African-Americans' right to vote, President Dwight Eisenhower signs the Republicans' Civil Rights Act of 1960

May 10, 1866 - U.S. House of Representatives passes the Republicans' 14th Amendment guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law to all citizens

July 1, 1991 - President George H. W. Bush appoints Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court

July 2, 1964 - Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting racial discrimination in public places and guaranteeing equal employment opportunities, is signed into law

September 9, 1957 - President Dwight Eisenhower signs the Republicans' 1957 Civil Rights Act

October 19, 1870 - Winning three of the four congressional seats for the state of South Carolina, Joseph Rainey, Robert DeLarge and Robert B. Elliott became the first African-Americans elected to the House of Representatives; Rainey was the first African-American seated in the House

October 26, 1919 - Republican Edward Brooke, who would become the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate by popular vote in 1966, is born in Newton, Massachusetts

December 9, 1872 - Republican Pinckney Pinchback of Louisiana becomes the nation's first African-American governor

December 15, 2000 - President-elect George W. Bush nominates Colin Powell for Secretary of State