The Key Players: Black Women In Politics

April 5, 2012  |  
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Lack of diversity has always been an issue in the cutthroat arena of politics. Although the number of black women who hold positions in political offices is substantially lower than their white counterparts, the number has increased over the years, partially due to President Obama bringing some ‘color’ into the White House.

Condoleeza Rice was one of those women who broke barriers, becoming the first black female secretary of state. Before Condoleeza, Shirley Chisholm was widely known for breaking barriers, as she became the first black woman to be elected into Congress in 1963.

There may only be a small number of black women in politics, but these women have become key players in political decision making and reform. They have stood firm in their social beliefs on issues that directly affect the country.

Check out our list of women in politics that you should know.

Kamala Harris

Often referred to as “the female Barack Obama,” Kamala Harris is California’s attorney general.  She is credited for raising California’s felony-conviction rate to 67 percent while serving as district attorney. She is also known for her establishment of a program offering education and job-training assistance to former prisoners.

Named one of the most powerful women by Oprah Winfrey, Harris has broken barriers, becoming the first black woman to be elected attorney general in California.

Valerie Jarrett

Senior adviser to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett is one of the President’s longest serving advisers, and has known both the President and Michelle Obama for many years. The lawyer and businesswoman got her start in Chicago politics in 1987 while working for Mayor Harold Washington as deputy corporation counsel for finance and development.

A savvy businesswoman not afraid to take risks, Jarrett has excelled in politics and has been considered by many media outlets as ‘Barack’s Rock’. She is a close friend of the Obama family, and was also known as a previous mentor to Michelle Obama.

Melody Barnes

Handpicked by President Obama to serve as the director of the domestic policy council for his administration in 2008, Melody Barnes began her career as an attorney. No stranger to politics before joining the Obama Administration, Barnes worked on civil rights and women’s issues as counsel to U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy from 1995 to 2003.

Maxine Waters

The outspoken, democratic  representative has been known to speak candidly about her disgust with various Republican policies, specifically those of the Tea Party. First elected into Congress in 1976, Ms. Waters has served longer than any black woman currently serving in the U.S. Congress.

She is an avid speaker on racial politics and has been far from soft spoken regarding her opposition of the Iraq War.  Ms. Waters and her no-nonsense, fearless approach to politics has re-elected consistently with over 70 percent of the popular vote.

Sheila Jackson Lee

Besides presenting a monumental eulogy during Michael Jackson’s 2009 memorial service, Sheila Jackson Lee is most known for her extensive political career. She has served as a representative for Texas’ 18th Congressional District since 1995, and is a member of the Democratic Party.

The native New Yorker, who holds degrees from both Yale University and the University Of Virginia’s School of Law, endorsed Hilary Clinton in the 2008 Presidential election. Sheila Jackson Lee has also served on the House Science Committee setting policy for the security of airports, chemical plants, hospitals and other institutions.

Donna Brazile

If you’ve ever watched CNN during recent presidential elections, you’ve probably seen Donna Brazile talking amongst a panel of political experts. She also became the first black woman to manage a presidential campaign when she directed the campaign of presidential nominee Al Gore.


Barbara Lee

The U.S. Representative for California’s 9th congressional district since 1998, Barbara Lee is known for her outspoken views on war. Lee was the only member of either house of Congress to vote against the authorization of the use of force following the attacks on September 11, making her a key figure in the anti-war movement.

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