Women in politics broke barriers this year—from Kamala Harris’s historic Vice-Presidential election to the record…
History of Black Women in the U.S. Senate
As Gender on the Ballot continues to celebrate Black History Month, we would like to honor the history of Black women in the U.S. Senate! Take a look below at fast facts about former Senator Carol Moseley Braun and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Carol Moseley Braun is a former U.S. Senator, politician, lawyer, and American diplomat. Moseley Braun represented Illinois in the United States Senate from 1993 to 1999, becoming the first Black woman Senator in the country’s history. As of January 2023, Moseley Braun serves as chair of the United States African Development Foundation, a role she was nominated for by President Joe Biden.
Moseley Braun was born and raised in Chicago. She majored in political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago and later earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1986. Prior to her career in politics, Moseley Braun was a prosecutor for the United States Attorney’s office in Chicago from 1973 to 1977. Moseley Braun earned the Attorney General’s Special Achievement Award for her work in housing, health policy, and environmental law.
Moseley Braun’s political career began in 1978 when she was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, a position she held until 1988. Moseley Braun was the first African American woman to serve as assistant majority leader. Moseley Braun later served as the Cook County Recorder of Deeds from 1988 to 1992. After being angered by his vote to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in 1992, Moseley Braun challenged incumbent Democratic Senator Alan Dixon in 1992. She won the Democratic nomination, and on November 3, 1992 became the first African American woman to be elected to the United States Senate, and the second African American U.S. Senator since the Reconstruction Era. During her time in office, Senator Moseley Braun advocated for civil rights issues, and legislation on crime, education, and families. Moseley Braun completed one term as Senator and then lost her next election to Republican Peter Fitzgerald.
After her time in the Senate, Moseley Braun was appointed United States Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa by President Bill Clinton, serving in that role from 1999 to 2001. Moseley Braun later ran for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2003, and in January 2023, she was nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as chair for the United States African Development Foundation.
Kamala Harris is a former U.S. Senator and the current Vice President of the United States. Harris represented California in the United State Senate from 2017 to 2021, making her the second Black woman elected to the legislative body. Harris is the 49th Vice President and is the highest-ranking female official in U.S. history.
Vice President Harris was born in Oakland, California and moved around during her childhood—living in Illinois, other parts of the Midwest, and in Montreal, Quebec. Harris attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. for her undergraduate studies, with majors in political science and economics. During her time at Howard University, Harris was a mailroom clerk for California senator Alan Cranston, had leadership positions with the economics society and the debate team, and joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Harris then attended University of California, Hastings College of Law and graduated with her Juris Doctor in 1989. She was admitted to the California Bar in June 1990. Prior to her career in politics, Harris worked as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, California, assistant district attorney in San Francisco, and she ran the Family and Children’s Services Division of San Francisco’s City Hall.
Harris began her political career in January 2004 when she was elected the 27th District Attorney of San Francisco. She was the first person of color elected as of the city, a role she served in until 2011. Harris was then elected the 32nd Attorney General of California in November 2010. Upon her swearing in, Harris was the first woman, first African American, and the first South Asian to be Attorney General in California. During Harris’s tenure, she focused on a number of issues including consumer protection, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ rights, and public safety. In November 2016, Harris was elected United States Senator, defeating fellow Democrat, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. She became the first Black Senator from California and the first Indian American elected to the Senate. As Senator, Harris gained a national profile for her questioning of Trump administration officials during Senate hearings. Harris also focused on bans on assault weapons, healthcare reform, and paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
In 2019, Harris announced she was running for president in the 2020 election. At the end of 2019, Harris withdrew her campaign for president and later endorsed Joe Biden. In August of 2020, Harris was announced as Biden’s running mate and Biden/Harris were elected in November of that year. Once Harris was inaugurated in January 2021, there were no longer any Black women in the U.S. Senate.