Blanche Kelso Bruce and American Money

How Blanche Kelso Bruce Got His Name on American Money

Blanche Kelso Bruce was an American politician in the United States Senate from 1875 to 1881. He was the first African American to serve a full term in Congress and is considered one of the most influential black men of his time.

In recognition of Black History Month, we’d like to highlight Bruce’s accomplishments during his career. Navigating policy reform with sharp political shrewdness, Bruce empowered others with his philosophies. 

Blanche Kelso Bruce in office

As a senator, Blanche Kelso Bruce advocated for the fair treatment of Blacks and Indians. He also opposed other policy changes that excluded Asian immigrants. Throughout his career, he supported the equality of others regardless of race. To him, the law should be the same for all people. Color did not constitute a suitable variable for justice.

After his Senate term, Bruce became the Register of the Treasury on May 21, 1881. Being elected to the title placed his name on all U.S. currency. It was the first time in the history of the United States that a Black name was displayed on money. 

He was appointed as Register of the Treasury a second time in 1897 by President William McKinley. Bruce’s name was printed on all American currencies and was well-distinguished as a financial authority. Some say he greatly deserved his consecutive appointments, and his actions in office brought additional honors to the dollar bill.

Accomplishments and legacy

The legacy following Blanche Kelso Bruce lives on to this day. He has received several awards and recognitions for his role in American politics. 

1898 – The District of Columbia public school trustees ordered naming a new school building after Bruce in his honor.

1975 – The Washington, D.C. residence of Bruce was declared a National Historic Landmark and formally named The Blanche K. Bruce House.

2001 – The U.S. Senate displayed a commissioned portrait of Bruce at the Capitol.

2002 – Scholar Molefi Kete Asante recognized Bruce on his highly-syndicated list called 100 Greatest African Americans.

2006 – The African American Heritage Preservation Foundation unveiled a historical highway marker at Bruce’s birthplace.

2006 – Lawrence Otis Graham authored a historical book about Bruce titled The True Story of America’s First Black Dynasty: The Senator and the Socialite.

As we conclude our feature on Blanche Kelso Bruce, we know that sticking to the principles of fairness and equality will always make a lasting impact. 


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