Here's How Many Senators in America's History Have Been Black


The news: The Washington Post has published a chart that puts the U.S. Senate’s historical lack of diversity in stark visual terms. Of the 1,950 senators who have served since 1787 – 227 years ago – only nine have been black:

Image Credit: Washington Post

Poor showing. Percentage-wise, that’s a measly 0.5% of all U.S. senators, despite that black Americans make up 12.6% of the total population. Of the nine who have served, three were appointed by governors to fill vacant seats, and two were elected by state legislatures before the passage of the 17th Amendment – which mandates the popular election of representatives. This means just four blacks have been elected to the Senate. Only one – Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) – was a woman.

“One of the things I celebrate,” says Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) in an accompanying video, “is that in our country, if you have the right ingredients, success can be yours. Part of the ingredients is your own work ethic, part of the ingredients is having role models and inspiration.”

“Barriers exist and challenges exist to be overcome,” adds Sen. Braun. “You just have to persevere. You have to stay true to who you are. You have to have the energy and the vision to know … if you just keep at it, you’ll come out right.”

Here’s a list of the “Divine Nine” (as nobody calls them but me):

1) Sen. Hiram Rhodes Revels (R-Miss.) – Served 1870-1871, elected by the Mississippi State Senate to fill a vacant seat.

2) Sen. Blanche Kelso Bruce (R-Miss.) – Served 1875-1881, also elected by the Mississippi State Senate.

3) Sen. Edward William Brooke, III (R-Mass.) – Served 1967-1979, elected by popular vote.

4) Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.) – Served 1996-1999, elected by popular vote.

5) Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) – Served 2005-2008, elected by popular vote.

6) Sen. Roland W. Burris (D-Ill.) – Served 2009-2010, appointed to fill Sen. Obama’s vacant seat.

7) Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) – Served 2013-present, appointed to fill Sen. Jim DeMint’s vacant seat.

8) Sen. Mo Cowan (D-Mass.) – Served 2013, appointed to fill Sen. John Kerry’s vacant seat.

9) Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) – Served 2013-present, elected by popular vote.