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Monika R. Alston

U.S. congresswoman, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, where she lived from childhood through her high school years. Brown has not made much information about her early years, her parents, or her personal life known. In 1965 she gave birth to her only daughter, Shantrel, the same year she began college. Brown received a BS in 1969 and a master's degree in Education in 1971 from Florida A&M University. She earned an education specialist degree from the University of Florida in 1974. From 1977 to 1982 Brown worked as a faculty member and guidance counselor at Florida Community College in Jacksonville.As a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. at Florida A&M, Brown became close friends with her sorority sister Gwendolyn Sawyer-Cherry, who was the first African American woman to serve in the Florida state legislature. Sawyer-Cherry influenced Brown to enter politics and after Brown lost her ...


Corrine Brown was born in Jacksonville, Florida. She received a bachelor's degree in 1969 and a master's degree in 1971 from Florida A&M University. She also received an education specialist degree from the University of Florida in 1974 and an honorary doctorate in law from Edward Waters College. Brown was a college professor, a guidance counselor, and owner of a travel agency before entering politics. In 1982 she was elected to the Florida State House of Representatives, where she served for ten years. In 1992 she was elected to Congress from Florida's Third Congressional District. She was reelected to a sixth term in 2002. In Congress, Brown has worked on economic development, transportation policies, veterans' affairs, environmental policies, and issues of importance to working families. Brown is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.


Rozalynn S. Frazier

A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Corrine Brown was born to the West Palm Beach native Voney Brown and Delia Covington, a cosmetologist from Georgia. The only child of this union, Brown was essentially raised by her mother and stepfather, William Covington, an Alabama native who served in the U.S. Navy.

Brown graduated from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee with a bachelor of science degree in Sociology in 1969. She also obtained her master’s degree in 1971 from Florida A&M University. In 1974, Brown earned her education specialist degree from the University of Florida in Gainesville. In addition to her chosen studies, Brown received an honorary doctor of law degree from Edward Waters College in Jacksonville. Now divorced, Brown is the mother of daughter Shantrel Brown, an attorney for the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC.

Before election to her first political office Brown ...


Melina Abdullah

politician and attorney, was born Perle Yvonne Watson, the only child to James Watson, a janitor, and Lola (maiden name unknown), a real estate broker, in Los Angeles, California. Her parents migrated to Los Angeles in 1921 from Paris, Texas, where her father had been a farmer and her mother worked as a teacher. Difficulties in Texas caused her parents to move west. Upon arrival in California her father took up work as a janitor for Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) Studios and later became a labor organizer. Her mother left her teaching career to become a real estate broker.

Throughout her life Burke was exposed to art, drama, and music, developing a deep appreciation for culture. It was her father's work as a labor organizer, however, that helped to politicize her. James Watson was a charter member of the Building Service Employees International Union later the Service ...


Lisa Clayton Robinson

“I visualize a time within the next ten years when we should have fifty black congressmen … It's just a matter of time until we have a black governor and yes, a black president.” In this 1974Ebony magazine interview, Congresswoman Yvonne Braithwaite Burke outlined her hopes for the political future of African Americans—a future her own career helped bring closer to reality. Born Yvonne Watson in South Central Los Angeles, Burke attended the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). After graduating from the University of Southern California Law School in 1956, she began a private law practice, and was appointed to the 1965 commission that investigated the Watts Riot of 1965.

A year later Burke was elected to the first of three terms in the California assembly becoming the state s first black assemblywoman In the state assembly ...


Julia Carson was born in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1965, while working as a secretary for the United Auto Workers union, Carson was hired by Indiana congressman Andrew Jacobs Jr. She worked on his staff for eight years. In 1972 she was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives, and in 1976 she was elected to the Indiana Senate, where she served on the Finance Committee and the Health Committee. In 1990 Carson was elected trustee of Center Township and directed an agency that provided assistance to the needy. Congressman Jacobs retired in 1996, and Carson ran for his position. She won fifty-two percent of the vote and became the first African American to represent Indianapolis.

Representing Indiana's Tenth Congressional District since 1997, Carson has written legislation on consumer protections and gun control, and sponsored the National Defense Rail Act. In 1999President Clinton signed her ...


Rose Pelone Sisson

U.S. congresswoman, was born Julia May Porter in Louisville, Kentucky, to Velma Porter, a maid, and Clifford McGuire. In 1939 Velma and Julia moved to Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1955 Carson graduated from Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis. She attended Indiana Central Business College and went on to complete three years of college over her lifetime. She attended Indiana University–Purdue University from 1970 to 1972, St. Mary of the Woods College from 1976 to 1978, and Martin University in Indianapolis from 1994 to 1995.

As a youth Carson delivered newspapers, waited tables, and did summer farm labor to earn money. After high school she was a secretary, working for the United Auto Workers Local #550 until 1965. She married Sammy Carson, a laborer, in 1956. She sought a divorce that was granted in 1963 and was given custody of her two ...


Roanne Edwards

Known for her integrity and her powerful oratory skills, Shirley Chisholm is widely considered one of the foremost female speakers in the United States. With a character that she has described as “unbought and unbossed,” Chisholm became known as a politician who refused to allow fellow politicians, including the male-dominated Congressional Black Caucus, to deter her from her goals. In 1969 her first statement as a congressperson before the United States House of Representatives reflected her commitment to prioritizing the needs of the disadvantaged especially children She proclaimed her intent to vote No on every money bill that comes to the floor of this House that provides any funds for the Department of Defense While Chisholm advocated for civil rights for African Americans she regularly took up issues that concerned other people of color such as Native Americans and Spanish speaking migrants She also delivered important speeches on ...


Daniel A. Dalrymple

Chisholm made a career out of breaking down barriers. She was both the first black woman to be elected to United States Congress and the first woman or African American to mount a serious run at a major party’s nomination for president. Chisholm forged a strong reputation for doing things her own way, spurning both the New York Democratic political machine and political decorum. Despite the obstacles that came with bucking the system, Chisholm always held her ground on important issues such as abortion, women’s rights, and civil rights.

Chisholm was born the eldest of three sisters to West Indian parents, Charles St. Hill and Ruby Seale in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn New York Shirley s father worked as a baker s helper and later a factory hand and her mother found employment as a seamstress However Hill and Seale quickly realized that their wages were insufficient ...


Julie Gallagher

politician, women's rights advocate, and educator. Chisholm was born Shirley Anita St. Hill in Brooklyn, New York, to Charles St. Hill and Ruby Seale, immigrants from the Caribbean island of Barbados. During the Depression, Chisholm and her two younger sisters were sent to live with their grandmother in Barbados. They stayed there for seven years. Chisholm claimed that her sense of pride in herself and her race came largely from her father, an ardent follower of Marcus Garvey.

Chisholm attended Brooklyn College from 1942 to 1946, where she developed her oratorical skills in the Debate Society. At the same time, her membership in the Harriet Tubman Society and the Political Science Society stimulated her racial and political consciousness. Her leadership skills attracted attention, and one of her professors suggested that she consider entering politics.

Chisholm's career in early childhood education spanned nearly two decades. Between 1946 ...


Patricia E. Canson

U.S. congresswoman, was born Shirley St. Hill in Brooklyn, New York, the eldest daughter of Charles St. Hill, a laborer born in British Guiana (now Guyana), and Ruby Seale, a seamstress born in Barbados. Shirley's first three years were spent in Brownsville, a predominantly Jewish area of Brooklyn. Finding the wages for unskilled factory work insufficient to care for three children properly, the St. Hills sent their three daughters to Barbados, where they lived with their maternal grandparents on the family farm. Shirley credits her grandmother Emily Seale with instilling in her a strong character and determination.

The girls returned to Brownsville in 1934 after their mother gave birth to another daughter Despite the social and financial hardships of the Depression Ruby encouraged her children to respect the values of civility thrift poise humility education and spirituality though the sisters endured a substantial amount of teasing in the ...


Donna Christian-Christensen, who was formerly known while in office as Donna Christian-Green, comes from a family of public servants. Her father, Almeric L. Christian, was a Virgin Islands chief district court judge, and her paternal grandmother, Elena L. Christian, was an educator in the Virgin Islands. Christian-Christensen graduated with a bachelor's degree from St. Mary's College in Indiana and earned a medical degree at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. After a medical career of more than twenty years, she entered politics as vice chairperson of the U.S. Virgin Islands Democratic Territorial Committee in 1980. She subsequently served on the U.S. Virgin Islands Board of Education and the U.S. Virgin Islands Status Commission. In 1996 Christian-Christensen became the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the U.S. Virgin Islands. She was reelected in subsequent elections.


Dorsia Smith Silva

physician, politician, and delegate to the U.S. Congress, was born Donna Marie Christian in Teaneck, New Jersey, to Virginia Sterling Christian and retired Chief District Court Judge Almeric L. Christian, from St. Croix. Christian-Christensen's parents wanted their daughter to understand her cultural connections to the Virgin Islands, so she spent part of her adolescence in St. Croix. This time in St. Croix had a profound influence on Christian-Christensen's career and commitment to helping others.

Christian-Christensen returned to the United States to graduate from St. Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana, where she earned a B.S. degree in 1966. After reading a United Negro College Fund booklet about the lack of minorities in health care, she decided to enter the medical field. She attended George Washington University Medical School and earned an M.D. degree in 1970. From 1970 to 1971 Christian Christensen worked an as ...


Adam W. Green

member of the United States Congress, was born Yvette Diane Clarke in Brooklyn, New York, to the Jamaican immigrants Leslie Clarke, an engineer and architect, and Dr. Una S. T. Clarke, a daycare administrator and City Councilwoman. Born and raised in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, Clarke graduated with honors from Edward R. Murrow High School in 1982 and earned a scholarship to Oberlin College in Ohio.

While in college, Clarke studied public policy and political science, and won an internship in 1983 with Major R. Owens, her local congressman. Moving back to New York in 1987, Clarke worked as a child-care specialist and as legislative aide to various elected city officials before becoming director of business development at the Bronx Overall Development Corporation.

By then the Clarke family had already made a foray into politics Una Clarke became the first Caribbean born woman to ...


Eva Clayton was born in Savannah, Georgia. She received a B.A. degree from Johnson C. Smith University in 1955 and a M.A. degree from North Carolina Central University in 1962. Clayton worked as director of a civil rights organization called the Soul City Foundation before she began a four-year tenure as assistant secretary for community development in the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Community Development in 1976. She started a management and consulting firm in 1981. In 1982 she also joined the Warren County Board of Commissioners, which she chaired for eight years.

When long-time U.S. representative Walter Jones died in September 1992, Clayton won a close primary contest against Jones's son, Walter Jones, Jr., for the Democratic nomination to fill the seat in North Carolina's First Congressional District. Her victory in the 1992 general election made her the first African ...


Charmaine A. Flemming

As the first black woman elected to U.S. Congress from North Carolina, Eva Clayton continued to achieve “firsts” throughout her eleven years of representing the citizens of her home state. In the 103rd Congress, she became the first woman president of the Democratic Freshman Class, which was the largest such incoming group since 1948. She was also named the Most Influential Newcomer after taking her seats on the agricultural and budget committees. In addition, she was noted for frequently steering activity on both the Congressional Rural and Black Caucuses.

Eva Clayton was born in Savannah, Georgia, to Josephine Martin, who was a teacher, dressmaker, and the superintendent of a children’s home, and Thomas McPherson an insurance agent After moving to Augusta Georgia the McPhersons were very active in the Presbyterian Church which inspired Eva to work as a public servant She remembers dreaming of becoming a doctor ...


Monika R. Alston

first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress from North Carolina, was born Eva McPherson in Chatham County, Georgia. The daughter of Thomas McPherson, an insurance agent, and Josephine Martin, a teacher, Eva attended Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, and earned her bachelor of science degree in Biology in 1955. In 1956 she married Theaoseus Clayton, also an alumnus of Johnson C. Smith. The Claytons had four children: Joanne, Theaoseus Jr., Martin, and Reuben.

Following their marriage both Eva Clayton and her husband pursued graduate degrees at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. Theaoseus received his law degree in 1961, and Eva earned her master's of science in Biology and General Science in 1962 The young couple moved to Warrenton North Carolina where Theaoseus established himself as a lawyer and both became active ...


Dawne Y. Curry

In 1991 the 102nd Congress had an almost unprecedented number of African American women joining its political corps—three. The triumvirate, consisting of delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and congresswomen Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Barbara-Rose Collins (D-MI), formed the largest black women’s contingent since the early 1970s. Collins entered the congressional arena armed with an ambitious platform that included economic development, an urban renewal program, and strong ideas about the plight of the African American man.

Barbara-Rose Collins was the eldest daughter of four children born to Lamar and Versa Richardson The future politician grew up in one of Detroit s predominantly Polish communities and the children there served as her primary social group until she attended school and met other children of color Collins attended Wayne State University where she also served as the purchasing agent for the institution s physics department She began her career of advocacy when ...


LaVerne Gray

U.S.congresswoman. Cardiss Collins distinguished herself as the longest-serving African American woman in the U.S. Congress: at the time of her retirement in 1996 she had served twenty-three years (twelve terms) in office. A Democrat representing Illinois's Seventh Congressional District, Collins was the first African American woman elected from Illinois to serve in Congress. In 1973 she filled the post vacated by her late husband George W. Collins, who died in an airplane crash.

Cardiss Collins was born Cardiss Robertson in Saint Louis, Missouri, the only child of Finley Robertson, a laborer, and Rosia Mae Cardiss Robertson a nurse When Cardiss was ten the family moved to Detroit Michigan where she attended Bishop and Lincoln elementary schools and graduated from Detroit s High School of Commerce She subsequently moved to Chicago where at first she found a job at a mattress factory She then secured a position ...


Mary Krane Derr

U.S.Congresswoman, was born Cardiss Hortense Robertson in Saint Louis, Missouri. She was the only child of Rosie and Finley Robertson, a domestic worker and a manual laborer, respectively. Cardiss's parents came from two different families with the same surname of Robertson. Rosie Robertson grew up on the Whiteville, Tennessee, farm of her great-grandfather, an ex-slave named Erastus White. Cardiss's parents separated during her infancy. Cardiss and her mother were so poor that their two-room apartment lacked a gas stove and refrigerator. They moved to Detroit when Cardiss was ten.

After graduating from the Detroit High School of Commerce, Cardiss moved to her maternal grandmother's home in Chicago. Initially a mattress factory seamstress, she eventually worked as stenographer for a carnival equipment business and then the Illinois Department of Labor. Attending night school courses at Northwestern University for twelve years, she achieved a business certificate in 1966 ...