African-American Women in Congress: The Legacy

In 1969, Shirley A. Chisholm became the first African American woman to serve in Congress after being elected to represent New York’s 12th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Chisholm was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Her tireless pursuit of equality, civil rights and social justice laid the groundwork for the women who would serve alongside her and for those who would follow in her footsteps. Four years later, Barbara Jordan became the first African American representative of Texas and the first Black woman to represent a southern state in Congress. Rep. Jordan went on to become an outspoken leader for the Democratic Party.

There have been 33 black Congresswomen elected to Congress since 1969. As a result of their hard work and dedication over the past four decades, some of these women have gained enough seniority to chair committees and subcommittees, as well as serve among the Democratic Party and CBC leadership.

Despite these gains, only about 11 percent of women elected or appointed to Congress have been African-American. Only one, Carol Moseley-Braun, has served in the Senate. Sen. Moseley-Braun was elected Senator of Illinois in 1992 and served one term as the first Black Democrat elected to the upper chamber. She is one of only three African Americans to serve in the Senate during the 20th century.

The following list gives the year that each Congresswoman was first elected to Congress.

1969: Shirley Chisholm (D-NY)
1973: Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (D-CA)
1973: Barbara Jordan (D-TX)
1973: Cardiss Collins (D-IL)
1982: Katie Hall (D-IN)
1991: Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI)
1991: Maxine Waters (D-CA)
1991: Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC)
1992: Eva Clayton (D-NC)
1993: Corrine Brown (D-FL)
1993: Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
1993: Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)
1993: Carrie Meek (D-FL)
1993: Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL-U.S. Senate)
1995: Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
1996: Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA)
1997: Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI)
1997: Donna Christian-Christensen (D-VI)
1997: Julia Carson (D-IN)
1998: Barbara Lee (D-CA)
1999: Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH)
2001: Diane Watson (D-CA)
2003: Denise Majette (D-GA)
2005: Gwen Moore (D-WI)
2005: Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)
2006: Laura Richardson (D-CA)
2007: Yvette Clarke (D-NY)
2008: Donna Edwards (D-MD)
2008: Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
2011: Karen Bass (D-CA)
2011: Terri Sewell (D-AL)
2011: Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
2012: Joyce Beatty(D-OH)
2013: Robin Kelly (D-IL)
2014: Alma Adams (D-NC)
2015: Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ)
Brenda Lawrence (D-MI)
Mia Love (R-UT)
Stacey Plaskett (D-VI)

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