Annual Black History Month Lecture

Simmie Knox's 2001 portrait of Blanche K. Bruce (Collection of the U.S. Senate)

Simmie Knox’s 2001 portrait of Blanche K. Bruce (Collection of the U.S. Senate)

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society is pleased to announce that the annual Black History Month lecture will be held at noon on Wednesday, February 17. This year, the event features a panel of speakers discussing black  congressmen of the Reconstruction Era, especially Senator Blanche K. Bruce. Sen. Bruce was the second black Member of the Senate and the first to be elected to a full term; he represented Mississippi from 1875 to 1881.

The event will be held in Room 385 of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. Co-sponsors include the Senate Historical Office and the Illinois State Society.


The panelists and their specific topics are:

  • Matthew Wasniewski, Historian of the House of Representatives: Black Congressmen of the Reconstruction Era
  • Betty K. Koed, Senate Historian: “The Senate Career of Blanche K. Bruce”
  • Melinda Smith, Senate Curator: “Artist Simmie Knox and the Senate’s Portrait of Blanche K. Bruce”


More about the speakers:

22974A_12.05.11_017.jpgMatthew Wasniewski joined the House History Office in 2002 and has been the House Historian since 2010. Previously, he was an Associate Historian with the U.S. Capitol Historical Society and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, College Park. After joining the House History Office, he edited Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007.

news-release-black-history-2016-betty-koedBetty Koed is the Historian for the United States Senate and Director of the Senate Historical Office. She has a Ph.D. (1999) in political history from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Prior to coming to the Senate in 1998, Koed taught history at UCSB and provided editorial assistance to The Public Historian. She subsequently served on that journal’s editorial board from 2000 to 2009. From 2001 to 2010, Koed also served as adjunct professor of history for Cornell-in-Washington. A former officer of the Society for History in the Federal Government, Koed has co-edited that organization’s quarterly newsletter and now sits on the editorial board for the Society’s journal, Federal History. Among her current Senate projects are online documentary histories of Senate impeachment trials, notable Senate investigations, and contested Senate elections. An experienced oral historian, Koed is conducting interviews to explore the role of women in Senate history, to document the decision-making process related to the recent economic crises, and to better understand the evolution of the Senate’s rules and precedents. She oversees the more than 10,000 pages of historical material on the Senate website and is the senior editor of the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress.

Melinda K. Smith is the Senate Curator. She directs the museum and preservation programs for the United States Senate under the authority of the Senate Commission on Art and serves as chairman to the Senate Curatorial Advisory Board, which provides advice and assistance to the Commission. The Curator’s Office collects, preserves, and interprets the Senate’s fine and decorative art, historic objects, and specific architectural features. Smith was the managing editor for the Senate’s first authored collection publication United States Senate Catalogue of Fine Art. Prior to joining the Curator’s office in 1990, Smith worked for the National Park Service. She holds an undergraduate degree in History from Colorado State University and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from the George Washington University where she studied under Marie C. Malaro.