Milestones in U.S. Political History: African-Americans and Women in Politics

Barack Obama's victory is the culmination of a long series of civil rights victories.

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1870—The 15th Amendment is ratified, prohibiting the denial of voting rights based on race, color, or previous status as a slave.

1870—Hiram Revels, a Republican from Mississippi, becomes the first African-American to be seated in the United States Senate. He serves one year, filling a seat left vacant when Mississippi seceded from the United States.

1870—Joseph Hayne Rainey, a Republican from South Carolina, becomes the first African-American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

1872—Victoria Woodhull, nominated by the National Radical Reformers, becomes the first woman presidential candidate. Her running mate, Frederick Douglass, is the first African-American vice presidential candidate.

1874—Blanche Kelso Bruce, a Republican from Mississippi, is the first African-American elected to a full six-year term in the Senate. A former slave, Bruce also served in several federal positions until his death in 1898.

1890—The Mississippi Legislature approves a new state Constitution that effectively disenfranchises nearly all of the state's African-American voters. In subsequent years, several other states, including South Carolina, Louisiana, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, and Oklahoma, adopt similar measures.

1917—Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, is the first woman elected to the House of Representatives.

1920—The 19th Amendment is ratified, prohibiting the denial of voting rights based on sex.

1922—Rebecca Latimer Felton, a Democrat from Georgia, becomes the first woman to serve in the Senate. She is appointed to fill a vacant seat and serves for only 24 hours, the shortest term served in the Senate. At 87, she is also the oldest senator at the time of first swearing-in.

1924—Nellie Tayloe Ross, a Democrat from Wyoming, is the first woman to be elected governor in the United States.

1932—Hattie Wyatt Caraway, a Democrat from Arkansas, is the first woman elected to the Senate.

1952—Charlotta A. Bass, nominated by the Progressive Party, becomes the first African-American woman to run for vice president.

1964—Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican senator from Maine, is the first woman from a major political party to run for president.

1965—The Voting Rights Act is passed, overturning efforts by state legislatures to disenfranchise African-American voters. The act suspends literacy tests, provides for federal oversight of voter registration in some areas, and directs the attorney general of the United States to challenge the use of poll taxes for state and local elections.

1968—Shirley Chisholm, a Democrat from New York, is the first African-American woman elected to the House of Representatives. In 1976, Chisholm was the first African-American to deliver the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.

1972—Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm becomes the first African-American from a major political party to run for president.

1984—Geraldine Ferraro, a Democrat, is selected to be Walter Mondale's running mate in his bid for the presidency. This makes her the first woman to be part of a major political party's presidential ticket.

1989—L. Douglas Wilder, a Democrat from Virginia, is the first African-American to be elected governor in the United States.

1992—Carol Moseley Braun, a Democrat from Illinois, is the first African-American woman elected to the Senate.

2008—Barack Obama is the first African-American to win the presidency.

Sources:

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress