Senator Charles Sumner introduces a bill to Congress to outlaw public school segregation and segregation in common carriers and public accommodations, under Congress's powers to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment. The school desegregation provision is later removed. A modified version of the bill is passed as the Civil Rights Act of 1875 after Sumner's death.

Hiram R. Revels of Mississippi, the first black man to be elected to the Senate, takes his seat. In December, Joseph H. Rainey, the first black man to be elected to the House of Representatives, joins Congress as a representative from South Carolina. Rainey becomes the first black man to preside over the House as Speaker pro tempore in 1874.

From 1870 to 1876, nine Southern states send 20 black men to Congress. When the last of these elected officials leaves his seat in 1901, no other African American serves in Congress until 1928.

The Fifteenth Amendment, guaranteeing blacks the right to vote, is ratified.