Hiram Revels was born in North Carolina in 1827. His father was a free man of mixed race ancestry, and his mother was white. He was apprenticed to a barber and studied for the ministry at seminaries in Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. Ordained in 1845 in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Revels served in the ministry in several states. When the Civil War began, he recruited black troops for the Union and served in Vicksburg, Mississippi, as a chaplain. After the war, he pastored churches in Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana before moving to Natchez, Mississippi. He was elected to the U. S. Senate in 1870, the first African American to serve in the Congress. He left the Senate to become the first president of Alcorn A&M College, Alcorn State University today. Revels also served as secretary of state of Mississippi and taught theology at Shaw University, now Rust College, in Holly Springs, Mississippi. He remained active in his church work until his death in 1901.