African American Politicians
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.
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
McLeod Bethune Julian Bond
Carol Moseley Braun
Blanche Kelso Bruce
Cochran Jim Clyburn
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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