Senator Edward Brooke

A Civil Rights Milestone.

In January 1966, Republican Edward Brooke was sworn in as Massachusetts’ senator. As the Twentieth Amendment dictates, Congress opens on January 3 or at a time prescribed by law. So roughly 33 senators and 435 House members are sworn in on this day every two years. What made this January 3 unique is that it was this first time a state had elected a black senator (though 2 African Americans were elected by the Mississippi legislature in the Reconstruction era).

See Brooke’s basic bio from the Biographical Dictionary of Congress, and a more thorough New York Times obituary.

Questions for Reflection:

1. What is unique about the state and party that elected him?

2. What else had Brooke done before or after serving in the Senate?

3. Who were the first two African American senators, when and from where did they serve, and what was unique about their service?