Alcorn’s founding president, Hiram Revels, honored on 150th anniversary of his historic election to the U.S. Senate

The legacy and triumphant political success of one of Alcorn State University's most historical figures were honored during a celebratory gathering on the university’s Lorman campus.

The Sesquicentennial Celebration of the U.S. Senate Seating of the Honorable Hiram Rhodes Revels was held Monday, Feb. 24, in the Oakland Memorial Chapel. This year marks 150 years since Revels, Alcorn’s first president, became the first African-American elected to serve in the Congress as a U.S. Senator in February 1870. Mayor Darryl Grennell, the city of Natchez, delivered the keynote address for the occasion.

In his remarks, Grennell drew parallels between Revels’ path to the U.S. Senate and his journey to achieving success in academics and politics. He started by speaking on how both had struggled to endure and overcome to achieve success.

“Both of us had to overcome struggle to find success,” said Grennell. “I was an introvert that had a speech impediment as a child. I had a different style of learning also, but none of these obstacles deterred me from pursuing a biology degree. I met friends and professors that helped me overcome my struggles. My professors told me to endure and overcome the struggle because once I got into the real world, I would have to roll up my sleeves and work hard.”

In politics, Grennell said that he prefers for people to see him as a statesman rather than a politician. He believes that Revels shared the same outlook and applied it to his leadership approach.

“We are both elected officials. Like myself, I imagine Senator Revels viewed himself as a statesman and not a politician. I’m not the type of person to only seek help from others when I need their vote. The reason why the people of Natchez elected me was that they knew that I would do the right thing and represent them well. It’s important to keep it simple and do what's necessary for the advancement of the people.”

The final commonality that Grennell spoke about was Revels’ ability to see the need of people and not their standing in society.

“I believe that Senator Revels was a statesman instead of a politician. I also believe that he wanted to help his fellow man, no matter their race. I feel the same way because it's all about helping your neighbor, no matter their race, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation. I don’t see circumstances; I only see people.”

Grennell encouraged the student attendees to take heed to the lessons being learned during their years as a student so that they lead to success in the future.

“My charge to you is the struggles you face will prepare you to achieve your professional goals in life. You have a promise to keep, and that is to continue the legacy of Alcorn by scoring high achievements in life.”

Two history majors at Alcorn took the podium to present insights into Revels’ journey as a political leader. Dominique Varnado and Lucas Wisner, both seniors, spoke about Revels' time in Natchez, Mississippi where he served as an alderman, his one-year stint in the senate, life as a man free from slavery, and how he became a renowned political figure in United States politics.

President of Rust College, Dr. David Beckley, spoke about Revels’ time as pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in 1866, which was the first African-American church in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Beckley also spoke about Revels’ return to Rust College to be a professor of religion after retiring from Alcorn.

The Rev. Dr. Neddie Winters, president of the Alcorn National Alumni Association, highly regarded his alma mater for producing legendary icons such as Revels.

“When I look at Alcorn, I don’t look at it as an institution, I look at it as a family and producer of legends,” said Winters. “To matriculate at Alcorn is like a right of passage into the real world.”

President Felecia M. Nave closed the event by thanking everyone that attended. She expressed her gratitude for officiating the program.

“It is an honor and privilege to host such a special event to celebrate this remarkable man,” said Nave. “Several individuals shared their insights and highlights to recognize this monumental occasion.”

A tree-planting ceremony in honor of Revels was held following the event.