Sound familiar? It is, but I’m not talking about Barack Obama; instead this is about the first black man elected to Congress, Hiram Rhodes Revels, in 1871. Here is the story from the Wikipedia:
The election of Revels was met with opposition from Southern conservative Democrats who cited the Dred Scott Decision which was considered by many to have been a central cause of the American Civil War. They argued that no black man was a citizen before the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868. Because election to the Senate required nine years’ prior citizenship, opponents of Revels claimed he could not be seated, having been a citizen by law for only two years. Supporters of Revels countered by stating that the Dred Scott decision applied only to those blacks who were of pure African blood. Revels was of mixed black and white ancestry, and therefore exempt, they said, and had been a citizen all his life. This argument prevailed, and on February 25, 1870, Revels, by a vote of 48 to 8, became the first black man to be seated in the United States Senate.
What I think important about this story is that the decision whether to seat Revels or not was made by the Senate, who is constitutionally tasked with determining the qualifications of its membership. It was not a court; opponents did not try to bring quo warranto lawsuits.
In the same way, the Constitution provides that the Congress (House and Senate in joint session) approve the election of a president, which they have done with President Obama.
Thanks to PolitiJab.com for this interesting historical note.