Edited by Gerald Boerner
Today we look at second set of five African American women politicians and activists who have made major contributions to the human and civil rights landscape of the 20th century. Many of these individuals are still alive and continue to work for the improvement of the status and experience of Blacks, both in the United States and abroad. Many of these works help to fight for the rights of the Black people in this country from slavery to freedom. Many of them have also participated in both the Congress and freedom struggles against the forces of bias, segregation, and relegation to second-class status; the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the legislation of the Great Society have given many of these women the opportunity to serve their people. These women continue to fight for the rich heritage of the African Americans.
Let us celebrate the lives and works of these women in politics and the Civil Rights movement. We now will proceed to examine the lives and works of these African American Women in more detail... GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
[ 2866 Words ]
Quotations Related to Milestones in History — Black Women Politicians:
“And I think there is too much bloviating around from politicians.”
— Barney Frank
“America gets the politicians they deserve. That’s it. And you keep struggling.”
— Al Lewis
“A politician’s goal is always to manipulate public debate. I think there are some politicians with higher goals. But all of them get corrupted by power.”
— Dean Koontz
“All politicians should have 3 hats – one to throw into the ring, one to talk through, and one to pull rabbits out of if elected.”
— Carl Sandburg
“Anyone can write one book: even politicians do it. Starting a second book reveals an intention to be a professional writer.”
— Len Deighton
“A group of politicians deciding to dump a President because his morals are bad is like the Mafia getting together to bump off the Godfather for not going to church on Sunday.”
— Russell Baker
“And for well over a hundred years our politicians, statesmen, and people remembered that this was a republic, not a democracy, and knew what they meant when they made that distinction.”
— Robert Welch
“Both politicians and journalists face situations which strain their honesty and humanity. My opinion is that politicians on the average stand up somewhat better than journalists.”
— John McCarthy
Unsung Heroes of History: Black Women Politicians, Part 2…
The term African American carries important political overtones. Earlier terms used to identify Americans of African ancestry were conferred upon the group by colonists and Americans of European ancestry. The terms were included in the wording of various laws and legal decisions which some thought were being used as tools of white supremacy and oppression. There developed among blacks in America a growing desire for a term of self-identification of their own choosing.
The desperate conditions of African Americans in the South that sparked the Great Migration of the early 20th century, combined with a growing African American community in the Northern United States, led to a movement to fight violence and discrimination against African Americans that, like abolitionism before it, crossed racial lines. The Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968 was directed at abolishing racial discrimination against African Americans, particularly in the Southern United States. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the conditions which brought it into being are credited with putting pressure on President John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Johnson put his support behind passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and labor unions, and the Voting Rights Act (1965), which expanded federal authority over states to ensure black political participation through protection of voter registration and elections. By 1966, the emergence of the Black Power movement, which lasted from 1966 to 1975, expanded upon the aims of the Civil Rights Movement to include economic and political self-sufficiency, and freedom from white authority.
Our focus here is upon the unsung heroes of this African American experience as they have contributed to the Arts and Literature over the last two hundred years or so. Today, we focus upon those Black Women who have made significant contributions as politicians and activists. Typically, their contributions have been ignored in favor of the contributions of their male counterparts, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglass, and W.E.B. DuBois. But the dozen women that we feature here have made significant contributions to the body of American political scene. For that contribution, we salute them. (Part 2 of 2)
History Channel’s Unsung Heroes:
Black Women Politicians and Activists, Part 2
Carol Moseley Braun (1947–)
Carol Moseley Braun was elected in 1992 to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate. She was the first African American woman elected to the Senate. (Photo Credit: Corbis)
Carol Elizabeth Moseley Braun is an American feminist politician and lawyer who represented Illinois in the United States Senate from 1993 to 1999. She was the first and to date only African-American woman elected to the United States Senate, the first woman to defeat an incumbent senator in an election, and the first and to date only female Senator from Illinois. From 1999 until 2001, she was the United States Ambassador to New Zealand. She was a candidate for the Democratic nomination during the 2004 U.S. presidential election.
Moseley Braun was first elected to public office in 1978, as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives. There, she rose to the post of assistant majority leader. As a State Representative, she became recognized as a champion for liberal social causes. As early as 1984, she proposed a moratorium on the application in Illinois of the death penalty. And in what became a landmark reapportionment case, Crosby vs State Board of Elections, she successfully sued her own party and the state of Illinois on behalf of African American and Hispanic citizens. When she left the state legislature in 1987, her colleagues recognized her in a resolution as "the conscience of the House.” That same year, she was elected as Cook County, Illinois, Recorder of Deeds, a post she held for four years.
In 1991, angered by incumbent Democratic senator Alan Dixon’s vote to confirm Clarence Thomas, Moseley Braun challenged him in the primary election. Candidate Albert Hofeld’s campaign ran many anti-Dixon ads, and Moseley Braun won the primary, ultimately defeating Richard S. Williamson in the Senate election. On November 3, 1992, she became the first African American woman to be elected to the United States Senate. Her election marked the first time Illinois had elected a woman, and the second time a black person was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate. She (along with Edward Brooke) was one of two African-Americans to serve in the Senate in the 20th century, and was the sole African-American in the Senate for her entire term.
Patricia Roberts Harris (1924–1985)
Patricia Roberts Harris served as the secretary of housing and urban development from 1977-1979 and was the first African American woman to be a member of a presidential cabinet. Harris was also the first African American woman appointed to a U.S. ambassadorship. (Photo Credit: Corbis)
Patricia Roberts Harris served as United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (which office later became United States Secretary of Health and Human Services) in the administration of President Jimmy Carter. She was the first African American woman to serve as a United States Ambassador, representing the U.S. in Luxembourg under President Lyndon B. Johnson, and the first to enter the line of succession to the Presidency.
Patricia Roberts was elected Phi Beta Kappa, and she also participated in one of the nation’s first lunch counter sit-ins, in 1943. There she met William Beasley Harris, a member of the Howard law faculty; they were married in 1955. She did postgraduate work at the University of Chicago and at American University in 1949. Until 1953, she worked as Assistant Director of the American Council on Human Rights.
Her first position with the U.S. government was as an attorney in the appeals and research section of the criminal division of the Department of Justice in 1960. There she met and struck up a friendship with Robert Kennedy, the new attorney general. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy appointed her co-chairman of the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights.
In 1964, Patricia Harris was elected a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from the District of Columbia. She worked in Lyndon Johnson’s presidential campaign and seconded his nomination at the 1964 Democratic Convention. Soon after his victory, President Johnson appointed her Ambassador to Luxembourg from 1965 to 1967. Following her service as Dean of Howard’s School of Law from 1969 to 1972, she joined one of Washington, D.C.’s most prestigious law firms.
Condoleeza Rice (1954–)
Condoleeza Rice was the first woman to ever serve as the head of the National Security Council. In 2005 Rice became the first African American woman to serve as secretary of state. (Photo Credit: Corbis)
Condoleezza Rice is an American political scientist and diplomat. She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, and was the second person to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush. Rice was the first female African-American secretary of state, as well as the second African American (after Colin Powell), and the second woman (after Madeleine Albright). Rice was President Bush’s National Security Advisor during his first term, making her the first woman to serve in that position. Before joining the Bush administration, she was a professor of political science at Stanford University where she served as Provost from 1993 to 1999. Rice also served on the National Security Council as the Soviet and East European Affairs Advisor to President George H.W. Bush during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and German reunification.
On November 16, 2004, Bush nominated Rice to be Secretary of State. On January 26, 2005, the Senate confirmed her nomination by a vote of 85–13. The negative votes, the most cast against any nomination for Secretary of State since 1825, came from Senators who, according to Senator Barbara Boxer, wanted "to hold Dr. Rice and the Bush administration accountable for their failures in Iraq and in the war on terrorism." Their reasoning was that Rice had acted irresponsibly in equating Saddam’s regime with Islamist terrorism and some could not accept her previous record. Senator Robert Byrd voted against Rice’s appointment, indicating that she "has asserted that the President holds far more of the war power than the Constitution grants him.”
As Secretary of State, Rice championed the expansion of democratic governments. Rice stated that the September 11 attacks in 2001 were rooted in "oppression and despair" and so, the US must advance democratic reform and support basic rights throughout the greater Middle East. Rice also reformed and restructured the department, as well as US diplomacy as a whole. "Transformational Diplomacy" is the goal that Rice describes as "work[ing] with our many partners around the world… [and] build[ing] and sustain[ing] democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.”
Susan Rice (1964–)
Susan Rice, appointed by Barack Obama in 2009, is the first African-American woman to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. (Photo Credit: Corbis)
Susan Elizabeth Rice is an American diplomat, former think tank fellow, and civil servant. She is an American foreign policy advisor and United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Rice served on the staff of the National Security Council and as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during President Bill Clinton’s second term. Rice was confirmed as UN Ambassador by the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on January 22, 2009.
At the time of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, Rice reportedly said, "If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?" Rice subsequently acknowledged the mistakes made at the time and felt that a debt needed repaying. The inability or failure of the Clinton administration to do anything about the genocide would inform her later views on possible military interventions. She would later say of the experience: "I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.”
Rice supported the multinational force that invaded Zaire from Rwanda in 1996 and overthrew dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, saying privately that "Anything’s better than Mobutu." Others criticized the U.S. complicity in the violation of the Congo’s borders as destabilizing and dangerous.
In a 2002 op-ed piece in the Washington Post, former Ambassador to Sudan Timothy M. Carney and news contributor Mansoor Ijaz implicated Rice and counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke in missing an opportunity to neutralize Osama bin Laden while he was still in Sudan in 1996. They write that Sudan and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright were ready to cooperate on intelligence potentially leading to Bin Laden, but that Rice and Clarke persuaded National Security Advisor Sandy Berger to overrule Albright. Similar allegations have been made by Vanity Fair contributing editor David Rose and Richard Miniter, author of Losing Bin Laden, in a November 2003 interview with World.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has been a longtime mentor and family friend to Rice. Albright urged Clinton to appoint Rice as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in 1997. Rice was not the first choice of Congressional Black Caucus leaders, who considered Rice a member of "Washington’s assimilationist black elite." At a confirmation hearing chaired by Senator Jesse Helms, Rice, who attended the hearing along with her infant son, whom she was then nursing, made a great impression on Senators from both parties and "sailed through the confirmation process." Rice was Assistant Secretary for African Affairs until Clinton left office in 2001.
Sheila Jackson Lee (1950–)
Sheila Jackson Lee represents the 18th Congressional District of Texas, which includes Houston. Jackson Lee sits on three Congressional committees and is currently serving her seventh term. (Photo Credit: Corbis)
Jackson Lee made three unsuccessful attempts at local judgeships before becoming a municipal judge from 1987 to 1990. Jackson Lee, along with Sylvia Garcia, were appointed by then Mayor of Houston Kathy Whitmire. In 1989 she won the at-large position for a seat on the Houston City Council, serving until 1994. While on the city council, Jackson Lee helped pass a safety ordinance that required parents to keep their guns away from children. She also worked for expanded summer hours at city parks and recreation centers as a way to combat gang violence.
Prior to the 110th Congress, Jackson Lee served on the House Science Committee and on the Subcommittee that oversees space policy and NASA. She is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and a CBC whip.
In 2000, she favored permanently normalizing trade status for China, arguing that it would aid both human rights and Houston’s economy.
Jackson Lee traveled to the 2001 World Conference against Racism in South Africa, and has backed sanctions against Sudan. On April 28, 2006, Jackson Lee, along with four other members of Congress and six other activists, was arrested for disorderly conduct in front of Sudan’s embassy in Washington. They were protesting the role of Sudan’s government in ethnic cleansing in Darfur.
The paragraphs in italics above were taken from the slide show published by the History Channel (see References). Click HERE to access that slideshow. The photographs of the women are courtesy of Corbis and Getty Images.
Little Rock Nine… (2:28)
Led by civil rights pioneer Daisy Bates, these nine brave Arkansas teenagers broke through racial barriers to become the first black students to attend Little Rock High School.
Please take time to further explore more about African Americans, Carol Moseley Braun, Patricia Roberts Harris, Condoleeza Rice, Susan Rice, Sheila Jackson Lee, African-American Civil Rights Movement, Black Women Politicians, and Black Women Activists by accessing the Wikipedia articles referenced below…
Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Wikipedia: African Americans…
Wikipedia: Carol Moseley Braun…
Wikipedia: Patricia Roberts Harris…
Wikipedia: Condoleeza Rice…
Wikipedia: Susan Rice…
Wikipedia: Sheila Jackson Lee…
Wikipedia: List of African-American Civil Rights Movement (1955–1968)…
Wikipedia: Black Women in Art and Literature: Black Women Politicians & Activists…
Brainy Quote: Politicians Quotes…
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Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Black Women in History: Rosa Parks…
Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Black Women in History: Shirley Chisholm…
Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Black Women in History: Condoleezza Rice…
Prof. Boerner’s Explorations: Carol Moseley Braun: 1st African American Woman in U.S. Senate…