Senator Blanche K. Bruce, “Speech Before The Senate to Introduce a Resolution Appointing a Committee to Investigate Election Practices in Mississippi,” 1876
Blanche K. Bruce (1841-1898) was the first African American to serve a full term as a United States Senator. In February 1874, the Mississippi legislature elected Bruce to the U.S. Senate. Bruce focused on a number of state and national issues including the construction of levees along the Mississippi River, the development of a more humane and equitable federal Indian policy and the desegregation of the United States Army. However one of his most memorable addresses in Congress occurred in March 1876 when he called for a Senate investigation of the racial and political violence that marked the Mississippi gubernatorial election of 1875. That speech appears below.
The conduct of the late election in Mississippi affected not merely the fortunes of partisans—as the same were necessarily involved in the defeat or success of the respective parties to the contest—but put in question and jeopardy the sacred rights of the citizens; and the investigation contemplated in the pending resolution has for its object not the determination of the question whether the offices shall be held and the public affairs of that State be administered by democrats or republicans, but the higher and more important end, the protection in all their purity and significance of the political rights of the people and the free institutions of the country.
The evidence in hand and accessible will show beyond peradventure that in many parts of the State corrupt and violent influences were brought to bear upon the registrars of voters, thus materially affecting the character of the voting or poll lists; upon the inspectors of election, prejudicially and unfairly thereby changing the number of votes cast; and, finally, threats and violence were practiced directly upon the masses of voters in such measures and strength as to produce grave apprehensions for their personal safety and as to deter