Chisholm's 1968 Win Opened Door For OthersWhile Rep. Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman to win a seat in Congress, a long line of black women have followed in her footsteps. Here's a list of the black women who have served on Capitol Hill in the past 40 years.
Courtesy of National Archives and Records Adminstration
Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (D-CA)
Born: Oct. 5, 1932, in Los Angeles, Calif.
Home: 37th District, California (Los Angeles)
Education: B.A., University of California, 1953; J.D., University of California School of Law, 1956
Already well-known in California political circles, Burke gained national exposure when she served as vice chairwoman of the 1972 Democratic National Convention. That same year, she became the first black woman from California elected to Congress, overwhelmingly defeating opponent Gregg Tria with 73 percent of the vote. Burke served on the House Appropriations Committee and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and she was the first woman to take the helm of the Congressional Black Caucus. Burke was the first legislator to give birth while serving in Congress, making her the first member of Congress to be granted maternity leave.
Courtesy of Library of Congress
Barbara Jordan (D-TX)
Born: Feb. 21, 1936, in Houston, Texas
Home: 18th District, Texas (Houston)
Education: B.A., Texas Southern University; J.D., Boston University, 1959
In 1971, Jordan, then a Texas state senator, launched her campaign to represent the newly redrawn 18th congressional district, which encompassed most of downtown Houston. She defeated Curtis Graves in the Democratic primary, garnering 80 percent of the vote. Jordan went on to defeat Republican Paul Merritt, drawing 81 percent of the vote. She served on the House Judiciary Committee and drew national attention during the Watergate hearings with her defense of the Constitution. In 1976, Jordan became the first black keynote speaker at a Democratic National Convention.
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Cardiss Collins (D-IL)
Born: Sept. 24, 1931, in St. Louis, Mo.
Home: 7th District, Illinois (Chicago)
Education: Northwestern University, 1966-67
Collins won her congressional seat on Chicago's west side during a special election to fill the vacancy created by husband George W. Collins' death. During more than 20 years in Congress, she served on various committees and was ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform and Oversight panel. She was the first black woman selected as Democratic whip at-large. As president of the Congressional Black Caucus, she criticized President Jimmy Carter for his record on civil rights. Before retiring from office, Cardiss co-sponsored the Universal Health Care Act of 1991 and introduced a law designating October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
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Katie Beatrice Hall (D-IN)
Born: April 3, 1938, in Mound Bayou, Miss.
Home: 1st District, Indiana (Gary)
Education: M.S., Indiana University, 1968
Hall won her congressional seat in 1983 during a special election called after Rep. Adam Benjamin (D) died in office. Already a state legislator, she drew 63 percent of the vote and defeated Republican Thomas Kreiger for the open seat, going on to easily win re-election for a full term. As chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Census and Population, she introduced a bill to make the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a federal holiday.
Collection of U.S. House of Rep.
Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI )
Born: April 13, 1939, in Detroit, Mich.
Home: 13th and 15th Districts, Michigan (Detroit)
Education: Attended Wayne State University, 1957
Collins was elected to represent Michigan's 13th District in 1990 after an earlier unsuccessful run for Congress. After redistricting following the 1990 census, Collins represented Michigan's 15th District. She served on the House Public Works and Transportation Committee, among others, and was appointed majority whip at-large in 1993. Collins vocally opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement and extending the death penalty to more federal crimes.
Norton defeated five challengers in the Democratic primary in 1990 and won 62 percent of the vote in the general election. In her nine congressional terms, she has served on various panels, including the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Homeland Security committees. As the District's representative, Norton lacks full voting rights on the House floor; an advocate for D.C. statehood and voting rights, she was able to get a bipartisan bill passed by the House in 2007.
Education: B.A., California State University at Los Angeles, 1970
Waters garnered 79 percent of the vote in her first bid for the congressional seat vacated by retiring Rep. Gus Hawkins (D). During nine terms, Waters created the Center for Women Veterans and established the Minority AIDS Initiative. She also advocated for Third World countries, including Sudan, Haiti and Liberia. In 2005, she co-founded the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus.
Education: B.A., University of Illinois at Chicago, 1969; J.D., University of Chicago Law School, 1972
When Moseley Braun was elected, she was the first black woman to win a Senate seat, the first woman to defeat an incumbent senator in an election and the first female senator from Illinois. She served on the Senate Judiciary, Housing and Urban Affairs, and Small Business committees. During her Senate term, Moseley Braun pressed for health care and education reforms, introducing the 1994 Educational Infrastructure Act. She launched an unsuccessful bid for president in 2004, later endorsing Howard Dean.
Home: 3rd District, Florida (Jacksonville, Orlando and Gainesville, Fla.)
Served: 1993 – present
Education: B.S., Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, 1969; M.A., FAMU, 1971; Ed.S., University of Florida, 1974
Brown has served on the House Veterans Affairs and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, using her influence to bolster rail projects in her state. She supported welfare reform and military defense spending, focusing on issues affected women veterans. After the 2000 presidential election, Brown pressed for voting reforms. She has been an advocate for Liberian and Haitian refugees.
Education: B.S., Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, N.C., 1955; M.S., N.C. Central University, 1962
Reapportionment, retirement and a runoff election helped Clayton snag her congressional seat in mostly rural eastern North Carolina. Nominated president of the freshman class, she was appointed to the Democratic Advisory Committee in 1995 to help develop party strategy. She revived the Rural Caucus, voted against NAFTA and supported tobacco subsidies for farmers. When Hurricane Floyd hit the state in 1999, Clayton secured billions of dollars in federal relief aid.
After being elected with 72 percent of the vote, Johnson — trained as a nurse — served on the House Science and Technology Committee. She has used the position to draw attention to problems with Medicare and to push for a program encouraging students to study science and math. Johnson voted against the prescription drug program put forth by Republicans in 2002.
Education: B.A., University of Southern California, 1978
McKinney was the first African-American woman to represent Georgia in the House of Representatives. She served on the House Agriculture and House Foreign Affairs committees during her first term. McKinney was an advocate for human rights issues, introducing legislation to prevent the sale of weapons to dictators and voting against a China trade bill. Never shy, in 2002 McKinney suggested the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The resulting criticism likely hurt her re-election bid, which she lost. She was able to regain her congressional seat in 2005, serving for one term. In December 2007, McKinney launched her campaign for president as a Green Party candidate
Education: B.S., Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, 1946; M.S., University of Michigan, 1948
Soon after winning her congressional seat, Meek lobbied for a seat on the House Appropriations Committee, though she lost the plum assignment when the Republicans took over the House in 1994. A staunch advocate for the poor and elderly, she opposed welfare reform legislation and authored legislation to tweak Social Security laws to cover household employees. In 1995, Meek criticized House Speaker Newt Gingrich on the House floor over a $4.5 million book advance.
Education: B.A., Yale University, Conn., 1972; J.D., University of Virginia Law School, 1975
Jackson Lee gained her seat in 1994 after winning 63 percent of the vote against Democratic incumbent Craig Washington in the primary. The legislator, who founded the Congressional Children's Caucus, has been a member of several other caucuses and task forces, focusing on issues including hunger, economic renewal, affirmative action and space and aeronautics. Jackson Lee serves on the House Judiciary Committee, on which she has advocated for abortion rights and civil rights. She was the first African-American woman to serve as the ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims. The congresswoman has a reputation for being loquacious, energetic and, as President Bill Clinton once called her, a "fireball."
Education: B.S., University of Redlands, Calif., 1981; M.A., California State University, 1988
In March 1996, Millender-McDonald beat eight Democrats in a special election to replace Rep. Walter Tucker (D), who was convicted of extortion and tax fraud. The congresswoman was a member of the House Small Business and House Transportation and Infrastructure committees. Her appointment on the latter led to her legislative efforts in trying to secure mass transit systems against terrorism, proposing environmentally sound methods of transporting chemical and nuclear waste, and creating a number of transportation projects in her district. In her first year in the House, Millender-McDonald called for investigating the CIA and any connection to the crack cocaine trade. In 2007, she became the first black woman to chair the House Administration Committee.
Education: Attended Martin University, Ind., and Indiana University-Purdue University
Carson was raised by a teenage mother in Indianapolis. Although she took college classes, she never received a degree. When Rep. Andy Jacobs (D) retired in 1996, Carson won against Democratic Party Chairwoman Ann Delaney in the primary. She went on to beat Virginia Blankenbaker (R) in the general election, becoming the first African-American and first woman to represent her district. Her legislative initiatives often focused on working-class Americans: She supported restrictions on NAFTA to prevent the exportation of low-wage jobs from her district, and she sponsored a sweeping bill to develop new railroad infrastructure. It created jobs, too. Carson also authored and championed a bill to confer the Congressional Gold Medal upon Rosa Parks for her role in the civil rights movement. When it passed, Carson said, "This is one of the best days of my life."
Education: B.S., St. Mary's College, Ind., 1966; M.D. George Washington University School of Medicine, D.C., 1970
After an unsuccessful attempt to secure the Democratic nomination as the islands' delegate to Congress in 1994, Christensen, a physician, beat incumbent Victor O. Frazier (I) in 1996 by a margin so slim it necessitated a runoff election. She is the first woman to represent an offshore territory and the first to represent the Virgin Islands. As chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus' Health Braintrust, Christensen has drawn on her medical experience to tackle numerous health initiatives, particularly those related to women and minority communities. These range from HIV awareness to racial disparities in access to health care. She also has championed legislation to bolster the Virgin Islands' economy through tax incentives and small business creation, and she worked on the adoption of a local constitution. She serves on the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Education: B.S., Western Michigan University, 1972; M.S., University of Michigan, 1977
In a vigorously contested 1996 Democratic primary, Kilpatrick beat six opponents — including incumbent Rep. Barbara-Rose Collins — all but ensuring her the House seat representing the largely Democratic district. Kilpatrick has worked for legislation on issues that directly affect Detroit, such as transportation, education and medicine. She is a proponent of investing in media outlets owned by women and minorities. Kilpatrick chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and has been a member of the House Appropriations Committee since her second term. Her son, Kwame Kilpatrick, is the former mayor of Detroit.
In April 1998, Lee won a special election following the retirement of Rep. Ron Dellums (D), for whom she had served as chief of staff and whose endorsement she secured. In Congress, she has been an advocate for the economically vulnerable, criticizing lenders who prey on poor, debt-ridden Americans, and supporting equal access to health insurance in underprivileged areas. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Lee is an outspoken advocate of peaceful resolutions to international disputes. She has consistently voted against the use of force, epitomized by her casting the lone vote against authorizing the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. She is the only member of Congress to vote against President Bush's 2001 resolution authorizing the use of military force in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Education: B.A., Case Western Reserve University Law School, Ohio, 1971; J.D., Case Western Reserve University, 1974
When veteran Rep. Louis Stokes (D) retired in 1998, Tubbs Jones won the Democratic nomination from a field of five contenders and went on to become the first African-American woman to represent Ohio in Congress. During her tenure, she served on several panels, including the House Financial Services Committee, and was chairwoman of the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee. She was the first black woman to serve on the House Ways and Means Committee. While mostly enacting a liberal agenda, Tubbs Jones broke with her party by actively supporting free trade legislation. During the 2004 presidential election, when her state was in the spotlight, Tubbs Jones led the House floor fight against certifying President George W. Bush's second term, citing a motivation not to block his election but to expose a need to reform the electoral system.
Education: B.A., UCLA, 1956; M.S., California State University, Los Angeles, 1967; Ph.D, Claremont Graduate University, Calif., 1986
After the death of Rep. Julian Dixon (D), Watson won a special election in June 2001, assuming seats on the House Government Reform and House Foreign Affairs committees. As a representative from Los Angeles, Watson also serves as chair of the Entertainment Industries Caucus. For the Foreign Affairs panel, she serves on the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health. She has called for expanded aid to combat HIV/AIDS, citing the pandemic as both a humanitarian and national security issue. She also supports expanded welfare programs through what she calls "commonsense" reform, and has supported a number of legislative efforts to expand health care access.
In the 2002 Democratic primary, Majette unseated five-term incumbent Rep. Cynthia McKinney and went on to beat her Republican rival by a large margin. Her tenure in the House was short-lived as a result of her running for Senate unsuccessfully in 2004. In Congress, Majette served on the House Budget, Education and Workforce and Small Business committees. She was an advocate for women and children, criticizing the Bush administration's record on domestic violence and supporting increased funding for the Head Start program.
Moore, who became a single mother at age 18, handily beat Republican Gerald Boyle in 2004 to win her district's open seat and become the first African-American to represent Wisconsin in Congress. She serves on the House Budget, Financial Services and Small Business committees. She advocates expanding government's role in combating poverty. She has focused on improving low-income areas' economies through legislation to curb predatory lending. She also has worked to prevent discrimination in hiring minority-owned businesses for government contracts. Moore wrote the SHIELD act, which implemented measures to protect victims of domestic violence who had fled their homes.
After defeating three others in the primary in her heavily Democratic district, Clarke won the seat once occupied by Rep. Shirley Chisholm when Rep. Major Owens retired in 2006. (She had mounted an unsuccessful primary campaign against Owens in 2004.) A member of the House Education and Labor, Homeland Security and Small Business committees, Clarke has sponsored legislation to help minority businesses and homeowners. Like Chisholm and a good portion of her constituency, Clarke is of Caribbean descent, and she has worked in Congress to promote improved relations with Caribbean nations.
Following the death of Juanita Millender-McDonald, on whose staff she once served, Richardson gained the most votes of any Democrat in a large open primary that included Millender-McDonald's daughter. She then won her seat in Congress in a special August 2007 election against candidates from three other parties. Richardson serves on the House Science and Technology Committee, and so far has supported legislation to enhance transportation infrastructure and increase general health awareness, especially in minority communities.
Education: B.A., Wake Forest University, N.C.; J.D., Franklin Pierce Law Center, N.H.
After unsuccessfully contesting longtime incumbent Rep. Albert Wynn in the 2006 Democratic primary, Edwards beat him in the 2008 primary. Wynn then announced that he would retire before the end of his final term, and Edwards took 81 percent of the vote in a June 2008 special election to succeed him. Upon being sworn into Congress, she was appointed to two committees: House Transportation and Infrastructure as well as House Science and Technology.