Black female voters drew national attention for their outsize performance in December’s special Senate election in Alabama. In 2018 several African American women will try to make history as candidates for Congress and statewide offices.
In Georgia, Stacey Abrams, a former state lawmaker, hopes to become the first black woman elected governor in the country, and several candidates are running to become the first black women to go to Congress from their respective states, including Colorado, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
A new report says this year’s midterm elections offer “a ripe opportunity to harness and expand black women’s political power, both as voters and candidates.” The report, issued by Higher Heights Leadership Fund and the Center for American Women and Politics, is titled “The Chisholm Effect: Black Women in American Politics,” in honor of the 50th anniversary of Shirley Chisholm’s election as the first black woman in Congress.
Nineteen black women hold seats in Congress, including one in the Senate. An additional two black women are nonvoting delegates in the House. Three black women hold statewide offices, including lieutenant governors in Kentucky and New Jersey. And in 2017, voters in New Orleans and Charlotte made history by electing black women as mayor.
Still, the report notes that black women remain underrepresented in elected offices at all levels. Although black women are 7.3 percent of the U.S. population, they make up less than 5 percent of officeholders in Congress, statewide executive offices and state legislatures.
Glynda Carr, a co-founder of Higher Heights, which encourages political engagement among black women, said the number of African American women running for higher office has grown steadily over the past several years. She cites a “role modeling effect.”
“When black women see black women in leadership roles, it motivates us to run for office,” she said in an interview. Carr also said that the current political environment, in which President Trump’s rhetoric and policy positions are not viewed favorably by many women and people of color, “black women see themselves as part of the solution, and running for elected office is an important piece of that.”