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African American Politicians

black panthers African American  political partyWhile African-American politicians have held office on the local and state level since Alexander Twilight was elected to the Vermont state legislature in 1836, race discrimination and laws prohibiting African-Americans from voting limited the number of Blacks holding office until the 20th century. Numerous African-Americans politicians have made their mark on shaping American history and public policy.

The American Society of Free Persons of Color, founded in 1830, was a black organization that provided social aid to poor blacks and organized responses to political issues.

Politically and economically, blacks have made substantial strides in the post-civil rights era. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who ran for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988, brought unprecedented support and leverage to blacks in politics.

In 1989, Douglas Wilder became the first African-American elected governor in U.S. history. In 1992 Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois became the first black woman elected to the U.S. Senate. There were 8,936 black officeholders in the United States in 2000, showing a net increase of 7,467 since 1970. In 2001 there were 484 black mayors.

African American President Barak ObamaThe 38 African-American members of Congress form the Congressional Black Caucus, which serves as a political bloc for issues relating to African Americans. The appointment of blacks to high federal offices, including General Colin Powell, the Chairman of the U.S. Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff and the  United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, 2001–2004, Secretary of State in, 2005–2009; Ron Brown, United States Secretary of Commerce, and Supreme Court justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas, also demonstrates the increasing visibility of blacks in the political arena.

In 2008, Illinois senator Barack Obama became the first black presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, making him the first African-American presidential candidate from a major political party. He was elected as the 44th President of the United States on November 4, 2008, and inaugurated on January 20, 2009.

Political Timeline For African Americans

1870—The 15th Amendment is ratified, prohibiting the denial of voting rights based on race, color, or previous status as a slave.

1870—Hiram Revels, a Republican from Mississippi, becomes the first African-American to be seated in the United States Senate. He serves one year, filling a seat left vacant when Mississippi seceded from the United States.

1870—Joseph Hayne Rainey, a Republican from South Carolina, becomes the first African-American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

1872—Victoria Woodhull, nominated by the National Radical Reformers, becomes the first woman presidential candidate. Her running mate, Frederick Douglass, is the first African-American vice presidential candidate.

1874—Blanche Kelso Bruce, a Republican from Mississippi, is the first African-American elected to a full six-year term in the Senate. A former slave, Bruce also served in several federal positions until his death in 1898.

1890—The Mississippi Legislature approves a new state Constitution that effectively disenfranchises nearly all of the state's African-American voters. In subsequent years, several other states, including South Carolina, Louisiana, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, and Oklahoma, adopt similar measures.

1952—Charlotta A. Bass, nominated by the Progressive Party, becomes the first African-American woman to run for vice president.

1965—The Voting Rights Act is passed, overturning efforts by state legislatures to disenfranchise African-American voters. The act suspends literacy tests, provides for federal oversight of voter registration in some areas, and directs the attorney general of the United States to challenge the use of poll taxes for state and local elections.

1968—Shirley Chisholm, a Democrat from New York, is the first African-American woman elected to the House of Representatives. In 1976, Chisholm was the first African-American to deliver the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.

1972—Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm becomes the first African-American from a major political party to run for president.

1989—L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat from Virginia, is the first African-American to be elected governor in the United States.

1992—Carol Moseley Braun, a Democrat from Illinois, is the first African-American woman elected to the Senate.

2008—Barack Obama is the first African-American to win the presidency.

Click on the names below for a complete biography, including photos of each African American politician listed.


Charlotta A. Bass   Mary McLeod Bethune   Julian Bond   Carol Moseley Braun   Edward Brooke   Ron Brown   Blanche Kelso Bruce   Ralph Bunche    Jennifer Carroll   Shirley Chisholm     Johnnie Cochran     Jim Clyburn    Deval Patrick    David Dinkins  
Patricia Roberts Harris    Eric Holder   Benjamin Hooks   Barbara Jordan     Thurgood Marshall     Constance Motley
 Barack Obama     Michelle Obama    David Paterson     Adam Clayton Powell Jr.   Charles Rangel    Hiriam R. Revels   
 Condoleezza Rice   Susan Rice    Michael Steele    Clarence Thomas    Alexander Twilight    Robert Weaver     Douglas Wilder  
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