Blacks in Politics, Part 1

Photo Essay

Barack Obama in his office with portrait of Thurgood Marshall, 2005

With the fourth of November rapidly approaching, politics are in the forefront of the American consciousness and the gender and race of our politicians have become a common topic of conversation. The majority of United States politicians have been white but African Americans have been involved in the political world for centuries as advisors, legislators, commentators, and voters. Early politicians such as Hiram Rhodes Revels, Joseph Hayne Rainey, and Blanche K. Bruce laid the foundation for Barack Obama's historic run for president. But Obama is not the first African American to run for president. Black women in particular have a strong showing in running for the office. In 1972 Shirley Anita Chisholm was the first African American, man or woman, to run for the presidency. In 1988 Lenora Fulani became the first African American and the first woman to be listed on the ballot in every state, and in 2004 Carol Moseley Braun tried to make history again by launching her own presidential campaign. This month's photo essay traces these influential politicians and others—the first African American members of Congress, the handful of black senators, and other African American presidential candidates—who have paved the way for Obama's run for president.

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The following articles have been selected to help guide readers who want to learn more about influential black politicians who have worked to break down racial barriers. (Access to the following articles is available only to subscribers.)

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