Skip to main content

Black Women Are Outpacing Black Men in Getting Elected to Public Office
by Hazel Trice Edney
NNPA Washington Correspondent
Originally posted 12/7/2003

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The rate of Black females being elected to public office in America has surpassed Black males by 5-1 over the past 30 years, according to a study made public this week by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

"In sum, the trends have dramatically changed from the early 1970s when about 82 percent of newly elected Black elected officials were men. In the post-1995 period, 85 percent of the growth in the number of Black elected officials was from Black women being elected to office," observes the report, "Black Elected Officials: A Statistical Summary 2001."

The report explains that during the first five years that the Joint Center tracked the number of Black elected officials nationwide, there were 4.5 Black men elected to office for every Black woman, (1,664 to 370). The trend continued but slowed from 1975 to 1985, two Black men for every Black woman (1,724 to 829); then even lower in the last half of the ˜80s, with only 1.2 Black men to each female.

In the 1990s, the trend suddenly changed with new Black elected officials becoming disproportionately women. Between 1990 and 1995, there were 1.9 new Black women elected to office for every new man (687 to 362), and between 1995 and 2001, the ratio was 5.9 new women for every new man (583 women to 99 men).

The news is exciting to C. Delores Tucker, founder and chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. (NCBW), a Silver Spring, Md.-based group that encourages women to engage in political activism.

"We are the caretakers of the family, even the men. We raise presidents and we raise governors," says Tucker, who served seven years as Pennsylvania's first Black female secretary of state. "We work at it. Women work at things and the men, unfortunately, they have been so deprived by the culture and by the system here that they have not been able to move as fast as women."

According to David Bositis, the Joint Center researcher who authored the study, most of the recent progress for Black women has taken place at the county levels, where Black women are being elected to city councils and school boards. At that level, there was an increase of 22 positions, a 2.3 percent rise between 2000 and 2001.

"It's more a question of why Black women are doing well as opposed to why the number of Black men are declining," Bositis says. He speculates that women not only tend to vote in greater numbers, but in the Democratic Party – which receives an overwhelming majority of the Black vote – women are more politically active than men.

As for the men, Bositis says, several social variables have apparently caused the rate of Black male elections to slow.
"Black women are attending college at higher rates than Black men," Bositis says. "And, you've got criminal justice issues."

At the end of 2000, more Black men were behind bars (791,600) than were enrolled in colleges or universities (603,032), according to the Justice Policy Institute, a think tank that advocates alternatives to prison.

There are demographic reasons for the gap as well.
Tucker cites U. S. Census reports that show that women are more likely to vote than men. Further, the voting-age population of women exceeded men by nearly 9 million in 2000.

"We have the vote. We do vote, we have the greater number and we can win every seat if we realize what Abigail Adams told her husband John, if you don't remember the ladies while you're drafting that Constitution of the United States, we have the power to free ourselves."

Tucker was paraphrasing a note that Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, President John Adams, on May 7, 1776 that stated:

''I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for, whilst you are proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives. But you must remember that arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken; and, notwithstanding all your wise laws and maxims, we have it in our power, not only to free ourselves, but to subdue our masters, and without violence, throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet.''

Overall, Black elected officials have grown from 1,469 in 1970 to 9,101, a 519.5 percent increase.

That, too, is not as encouraging as it might first appear.
Of the 513,236 local, state and national officials, African-Americans represent only 1.8 of those officials and 12 percent of the U. S. population. There has been only one African-American governor and only three African-American senators elected in modern times, none of whom are in office now.

Other highlights of the report:
· The 10 states with the largest number of Black elected officials in 2001 were Mississippi (892), Alabama (756), Louisiana (705), Illinois (624), Georgia (611), South Carolina (534), Arkansas (502, North Carolina (491), Texas (460) and Michigan (346);
· In 2001, the South had the largest number of Black elected officials, with 6,179. That's 68.2 percent of all Black elected officials nationwide;
· In 2002, there were 11 Black women serving as mayor in cities with populations of more than 50,000, including Shirley Franklin of Atlanta, Rhine McLinn of Dayton, Ohio, Mamie Locke of Hampton, Va. and Gwendolyn Faison of Camden, N.J. There were also 12 Black women holding statewide office. In the Joint Center's first count in 1970, there was only one Black female serving in Congress, Shirley Chisholm of New York, and no Black women served as mayor of a big city;
· Black women have made political gains faster than their White counterparts. According to the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University, 14 percent of all U. S. House members are women; 38.5 percent of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus are women. Women were 20.5 percent of all state senators in 2001, but 35.2 percent of all Black state senators, and 23 percent of all state representatives, but 32.6 percent of all Black state representatives.
· Younger Black elected officials in their 30s and 40s, such as Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in Detroit, are being elected faster as older officials are retiring.

"For the remainder of the current decade, a generational replacement of Black elected officials will almost certainly continue, and perhaps accelerate," the report states. "And recent trends strongly suggest that the number of Black women in elected office will continue to rise."


... its time for Prosperity


An African American Board Game Of Wealth & Success.

Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Hi Our Empowerment, great article. Yes, the outpacing is due to the Spirit of God moving on the hearts of black women. God has an assignment for the black woman and God will use black women to do exploits in tearing down the demonic stronghold of racism.

We have a unique power that when united will shake heaven and earth. We have the power to work equally with the few black righteous men of truth to bring down the enemy within (colored treacherous sell-outs) as well as the white racist fiend without who uses his colored boys to keep the black underfoot.

Calling for black women to soar, is not a call to denigrate the righteous black man, rather a call to do our portion in setting the captive free. Again, great article, thanks for sharing.

Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.