In 2020, Black women took hold of the reigns when it comes to politics and were rightfully referred to as the “architects of democracy.”
Walking in the footsteps of Shirley Chisholm, the women on Higher Heights’ Chisholm 2020 list range from our first Black woman Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, to Adrienne A. Jones, the first woman and African American to serve as presiding officer in the Maryland General Assembly.
These 20 women not only have inspired future Black women public officials, but they also serve as the embodiment of decades of work that is now coming to fruition. They not only have a seat at the table—they built the table.
Meet the trailblazers on Higher Heights’ 2020 Chisholm List:
Kamala Harris made history when she became the first Black and South Asian woman to be elected Vice-President. Harris, who was also the first Black and South Asian senator, will take office alongside Joe Biden on January 20, 2021.
In November, Val Demings won her reelection in Florida’s Congressional District 10. But earlier this year, Demings was in the spotlight as an impeachment manager for proceedings against President Trump.
Rep. Karen Bass is the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus who has served five terms in California’s 37th district, which covers Los Angeles. Currently Bass serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs where she is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.
Lisa Blunt Rochester
In 2016, Lisa Blunt Rochester was first elected to the House in 2016 and became the first woman and first person of color to represent Delaware in Congress. In November, she won re-election in Delaware’s 1st District.
On Nov. 6, 2018, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley became the first woman of color to be elected to Congress from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As part of the Squad, Pressley was reelected for her in the 7th district for a second term. Earlier this year, Pressley announced to the world her battle with alopecia and now proudly rocks a fierce bald head.
In 2018, Letitia Ann “Tish” James became New York’s first Black female attorney general. James currently has a laundry list of items to ensure that Donald Trump’s post-presidency life will involve a lot of legal proceedings.
Black Women Mayors
These Black women mayors of some of our largest cities had a difficult year on their hands dealing with the Coronavirus, but they have managed to keep their cities informed and have placed their constituents health as their top priority.
Emilia Strong Sykes
Emilia Strong Sykes serves as the Minority Leader of the Ohio House of Representatives representing the 34th district, which consists of portions of the Akron area. In July, Sykes won the national EMILY’s List 2020 Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award.
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Charniele L. Herring and L. Louise Lucas
Virginia politicians broke through ceilings this election. House Majority Leader Charniele L. Herring (D-Alexandria) and Senate President Pro Tempore L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) are the first women and first African Americans to hold their positions.
The Women of the Congressional Black Caucus
Following in the footsteps of founding member Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the women of the CBC are a force to be reckoned with. From Maxine Waters to Karen Bass, the CBC women have worked diligently to ensure that Black women have a seat at the political table.
Holly J. Mitchell
In November, Holly J. Mitchell won the 2nd District race for L.A. County Supervisor. Mitchell is also credited with creating the Crown Act, which prohibits discrimination against Black and brown people in workplaces and schools for wearing natural hairstyles.
In November, Cori Bush became the first Black congresswoman in the history of Missouri after beating her Republican rival Anthony Rogers with over 75 percent of the vote. Bush, a nurse and single mother, is also a Black Lives Matter activist.
In a landslide victory, Nikema Williams, who was selected by the Georgia Democratic Party to replace the late Rep. John Lewis, defeated her Republican challenger Angela Stanton-King. Williams will now represent Georgia’s 5th congressional district.
In January, Marilyn Strickland, the former Mayor of Tacoma, Wash., will begin her first term as U.S. Representative for Washington’s 10th congressional district.
Minneapolis City Council member Andrea Jenkins is the first openly transgender Black woman elected to public office in the United States. Shortly after the death of George Floyd, Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins voted to divert funds from the MPD to alternative community-based programs.
Kentucky state Rep. Attica Scott, is the state’s only Black female legislator. Scott represents the 41st district. Earlier this summer, Scott was arrested along with 24 other people in Louisville during Breonna Taylor protest. All charges against Scott were eventually dropped.
Black Women of the Washington Legislature
During this recent election, Black women made history in Washington politics. With the addition of T’wina Nobles, Jamila Taylor, April Berg and Kirsten Harris-Talley, the state has tripled its Black women representation in the legislature. Nobles is now the state’s first Black senator in a decade.
Tiara Mack, a former sex-education teacher, became the first Black LGBTQ+ state legislator in Rhode Island.
Valerie M. Cartright
Valerie M. Cartright went from being on the Brookhaven town council member in New York, to now representing the 10th District as a Supreme Court Justice. Cartright was cross-endorsed by her Democrat party and Republican and Independence party leaders, which helped her clinch one of the four seats available.
Adrienne A. Jones
Adrienne A. Jones is the first woman and first African-American to serve as a presiding officer in the Maryland General Assembly. This summer, Jones took the lead on creating legislature to reshape policing in Maryland, after the death of George Floyd.
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