Kamala Harris and the Growing Political Power of Black Women

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tags: African American history, voting rights, womens history, Kamala Harris

It will be tempting for some to see Senator Kamala Harris of California’s place on the Democratic presidential ticket as a result of her race and gender, and to characterize it as an affirmative action selection. Others may see this moment as an isolated event rather than the result of the hard work of Black female candidates, political strategists and voters who have participated in the building of the Democratic Party.

Both would be a mistake.

Ms. Harris is the embodiment of the growing political power of Black women to make demands within the Democratic Party — and the political sophistication to ensure that those demands are met.

In many recent elections, Black women voters have turned out at higher rates than any other demographic. More than 90 percent of Black women have cast their ballot for the Democratic candidate in the last three presidential elections. In 2008 and 2012 they had the highest turnout rate among all racial, ethnic and gender groups. No other major demographic is as loyal to either party as Black people. And Black women have become increasingly organized and focused on making that support meaningful for themselves and their community.


Of course, this moment is decades in the making. A century ago this month, women demanded and earned the right to vote through the passage of the 19th Amendment. In that effort, African-American women were often asked to march behind white women and participate in segregated rallies. Most Black women didn’t get access to the ballot until the Voting Rights Act was passed 45 years later. African-American women understood the power of the vote to choose candidates who would enact policies that either helped or hindered their quest for equal rights.

And despite the intersectional impact of racism and sexism on Black women, they are the nation’s most reliable champions for universal rights for all groups. They are keenly aware that all forms of oppression disproportionately affect Black women; consequently, Black women’s movements have always been inclusive even when that inclusion was not reciprocated.

Read entire article at New York Times

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