Monday, February 7, 2011

From Sojourner to Michelle: Ten Black Women Politicians Who Have Made History

In honor of Black History Month, we put together a list of ten black women politicians who have made a difference in US politics. Shirley Chisholm and Barbara Jordan paved a way for black women to serve in Congress and other women like Patricia Roberts Harris and Alexis Herman showed that they black women could lead large government departments. And even today, women like Condoleeza Rice and Susan Rice continue to show the world they they have the skills and diplomacy needed to have a successful career in foreign policy. Check out the other black women politicians who made an impact on American politics.

First up, is Sojourner Truth, who was an women's rights activist and abolitionist in the 1800s. She is remembered for giving her famous speech, "Ain't I a Woman" in 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention.  In April 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama honored her by unveiling a statue of Sojourner Truth on Capitol Hill- the first black woman to be so honored at the Capitol.
"One can only imagine what Sojourner Truth, an outspoken, tell-it-like-it-is kind of woman...would have to say about this incredible gathering, just looking down on this day, and thinking about the legacy she has left all of us -- because we are all here because, as my husband says time and time again, we stand on the shoulders of giants like Sojourner Truth." - Michelle Obama

Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress and even hired an all-female staff to show her dedication to advocating for women. She also co-founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) and also ran for president. Announcing her candidacy she famously said, "I stand before you today as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States. I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women's movement of this country, although I am a woman, and I am equally proud of that. I am not the candidate of any political bosses or special interests. I am the candidate of the people."

Patricia Roberts Harris is a woman of many firsts. She became the first African-American woman to serve as an ambassador, under President Lyndon B. Johnson, she later then became the dean of Howard Law School, the first African-American woman to become dean of a law school, and then became the first African-American woman to serve in a Presidential cabinet as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Jimmy Carter.

Barbara Jordan represented Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1972-78 and was the first African-American congresswoman from the Deep South. While in office, Ms. Jordan always championed the rights of African-Americans, the disadvantaged and the poor. She also was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton in 1994.

Alexis Herman is the first African-American to become the Secretary of Labor and served under President Clinton. Ms. Herman is a product of a public service family, her father, Alex Herman, was the first black politician elected in the South since Reconstruction. Before her appointment to Labor Department, she served as the Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison and now serves as a board member on a number of companies including Toyota and Coca-Cola.  

Wondering who was the first African-American woman mayor? Sharon Pratt Dixon Kelly holds that title, becoming the first African American woman to serve as mayor of a major American city, when she was elected to in 1990 to become Washington's DC's top official. She was the third mayor of the city and is the only woman to have served as mayor of Washington D.C.
Carol Moseley Braun was the first African-American woman elected to the Senate, representing Illinois in the U.S. Senate from 1993-1999. She also served as the United States Ambassador to New Zealand from 1999 -2001. She is currently running for mayor of Chicago.

Condoleezza Rice was the first woman to ever serve as National Security Advisor and the first African-American woman to serve as Secretary of State. She worked tirelessly as a member of President George W. Bush's administration and is counted as one of his staunch supporters. Since leaving the White House, she became a faculty member of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and is also the Director of the school's Global Center for Business and the Economy.

Another woman making history in foreign policy is Susan Rice, the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and the first African-American woman to serve in that position. She also served in the administration of President Bill Clinton working on the staff of the National Security Council and as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

In November 2008, Michelle Obama made history by becoming the first African-American First Lady. The Princeton and Harvard Law School graduate has been a champion of health eating and supporting military families since she moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Mrs. Obama said in 2009,
"I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America."
Are you gonna be next?


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