Black History 365 – First African American whose signature appeared on U.S. paper currency

First African American whose signature appeared on U.S. paper currency: Blanche K. Bruce, Register of the Treasury. (I was not able to find an image of the currency. :-/ )

First African American whose signature appeared on U.S. paper currency: Blanche K. Bruce, Register of the Treasury (see image of the currency below).

Signature highlighted. (Click to see larger image.)

Signature highlighted. (Click to see larger image.)

In 2016 for my Black History 365 series, I explore the obvious and not so obvious parts of American history that those called Black have taken part in. The things that we (Black people) have done other than be stolen from our homeland and made forced labor in a land foreign to us. I’m going to start this series by looking up the first time someone African-American did something and broke the color barrier in that activity or field. I’ll be starting with Wikipedia and working my way out:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_African-American_firsts

I will be learning a lot of this as I go since I am a product of the standardized Euro/Anglo/Caucasian leaning public school system. I hope you enjoy learning with me. I’ll be going down the list chronologically as it appears in the Wikipedia article.

If you have any other sources or additional information for this topic, please share in the comments. I also welcome any and all comments and discussion. Thanks for reading!

From Wikipedia:

Blanche Kelso Bruce (March 1, 1841 – March 17, 1898) was a U.S. politician who represented Mississippi as a Republican in the U.S. Senate from 1875 to 1881; of mixed race, he was the first elected black senator to serve a full term. Hiram R. Revels, also of Mississippi, was the first African American to serve in the U.S. Senate, but did not serve a full term.

Bruce was born into slavery in 1841 in Prince Edward County, Virginia near Farmville to Polly Bruce, an enslaved African-American woman who served as a domestic slave. His father was her master, Pettis Perkinson, a white Virginia plantation owner. Bruce was treated comparatively well by his father, who educated him together with a legitimate half-brother. When Blanche Bruce was young, he played with his half-brother. His father legally freed Blanche and arranged for an apprenticeship so he could learn a trade.
Bruce’s house at 909 M Street NW in Washington, D.C. was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1975
In 1850, Bruce moved to Missouri after becoming a printer’s apprentice. After the Union Army rejected his application to fight in the Civil War, Bruce taught school and attended Oberlin College in Ohio for two years. He next worked as a steamboat porter on the Mississippi River. In 1864, he moved to Hannibal, Missouri, where he established a school for black children.

During Reconstruction, Bruce moved to Mississippi, where he became a wealthy landowner in the Mississippi Delta. He was appointed to the positions of Tallahatchie County registrar of voters and tax assessor before winning an election for sheriff in Bolivar County. He later was elected to other county positions, including tax collector and supervisor of education, while he also edited a local newspaper. In February 1874, Bruce was elected by the state legislature to the Senate as a Republican, becoming the second African American to serve in the upper house of Congress. On February 14, 1879, Bruce presided over the U.S. Senate, becoming the first African American (and the only former slave) to do so. In 1880, James Z. George was elected to succeed Bruce.

At the 1880 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Bruce became the first African American to win any votes for national office at a major party’s nominating convention, winning 8 votes for vice president. The presidential nominee that year was James A. Garfield, who won election.
May 28, 1880 Herald of Kansas article (page 2) promoting the Blaine – Bruce ticket.
In 1881, Bruce was appointed by President Garfield to be the Register of the Treasury, becoming the first African American to have his signature featured on U.S. paper currency.

Bruce was appointed as the District of Columbia recorder of deeds in 1890–93, which was expected to yield fees of up to $30,000 per year. He was appointed as Register of the Treasury a second time in 1897 by President William McKinley and served until his death in 1898.

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