Historic Woodlawn Cemetery

Blanche Bruce Kelso

Blanche Kelso Bruce, U.S. Senator (R – MS)

March 1, 1841 – March 17, 1898


Although born a slave in Virginia, Bruce had the unusual opportunity to receive a formal education.  He was first educated by his young master, in a school in Missouri, and finally in Oberlin, Ohio.  During the Civil War, Bruce was a teacher and founded a school for Blacks in Kansas. 


Eventually he settled in Mississippi, where he held several positions, such as Sergeant-at-Arms of the Mississippi Legislature, member of the Levee Board, Sheriff and Tax Collector, and County Superintendent of Education.  In 1875, Blanche Bruce became the second African American elected to the U.S. Senate and the first to serve a full term.  Representing the State of Mississippi from 1875 to 1881, Bruce investigated the bankruptcy of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. 


The Bruce family was considered among the African American elite in Washington, DC.  After completing his Senate term Bruce stayed in the District.  Bruce was given a presidential appointment of two prominent positions that were only for African Americans: registrar of the U.S. Treasury (1881 – 1885; 1887) and recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia (1889).  Bruce was also a trustee of District public schools and of Howard University.  While in DC, real estate and insurance ventures helped make him one of the wealthiest citizens of DC.  Bruce-Monroe Elementary School, a public school in the District, is named for Senator Bruce.

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