In January 2021 when Kamala Harris was sworn in as first woman vice president of the U.S., Black women, who once upon a time had no chance to vote, not to speak of becoming president, saw one of their own a step away from the nation’s highest office. The daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, Harris is currently not only the first woman vice president but also the first Black American and first South Asian American to hold the office.
For two decades in public life, Harris has achieved a lot of firsts: the first Black woman to serve as San Francisco’s district attorney, the first woman to be California’s attorney general, first Indian American senator, and now she is working by Joe Biden’s side after the latter picked her as his vice-presidential running mate.
But before becoming Biden’s running mate, Harris was his opponent in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, after she had disclosed her decision to run for president on January 21, 2019. Things were going smoothly until her campaign began to struggle due to internal staff rows. In December, she dropped out of the race. Today, Harris is among the many Black American women who have entered the running for the highest office in the nation in spite of the difficulties.
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Until 1920 when Congress ratified the 19th Amendment, women didn’t have the right to vote in the U.S. Even after 1920, Black women were still barred from the polls in many states. Some Black female suffragists then joined the suffrage movement, and in the century that followed, they fought for the rights of their fellow women to vote in the midst of discrimination and racism. Then came the gallant Black female presidential candidates. Aside from Harris, the following are the Black women who have aimed for the highest office in the land: