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On May 22, 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks severely beats Senator Charles Sumner in the Senate chamber after Sumner made a speech against slavery and its expansion

May 22, 2026

|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every year that begins at 12:00 am on day 22 of May, repeating indefinitely

On May 22, 1856, Congressman Preston Brooks severely beats Senator Charles Sumner in the Senate chamber after Sumner made a speech against slavery and its expansion. The incident reflected breaking tensions between North and South over slavery, as many northerners rallied in protest while southern newspapers praised Brooks.

Though he suffered from brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, Sumner continued to be a loud voice in the abolitionist movement and, later, during Reconstruction, tirelessly advocated for civil rights legislation.

Did you know? Sumner was close with some of the leading writers and thinkers of the day, including Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

 

U.S. Senator Charles Sumner, Brady-Handy Photograph Collection, between 1860-1875

-Written by Anna Zemaitaitis, Communications and Design Officer

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May 22, 2026
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