Black Women’s Political Leadership by the Numbers

Last year, we saw the largest number of Black women running for public office at the state-wide and federal levels. In all, more than 100 Black candidates campaigned for these elected positions. Twenty-five African Americans—10 of them women—sought statewide office in 2014, compared to 17 in 2002, which held the previous record for Black candidates seeking statewide office in a general election.

The "Georgia Five" as they were called, made political history becoming the largest number of Black women from any one state to appear on the general ballot for statewide office.

Although we did not expand the number of Black women elected to statewide office this November, the women running demonstrated the possibilities that exist to expand Black women’s political leadership.

On January 6th five new Black women were sworn into the 114th Congress as part of the record breaking 104 women and the largest number of Black women ever to serve in the House at one time.

Among the new Black women on the Hill, Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) is the first Black Republican woman to serve in Congress. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) is the first woman to serve New Jersey in Congress in more than a decade and also the state's first-ever African American female member of Congress.

Currently there are no Black women serving in the U.S. Senate, California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) plans to change that in 2016. Last month, Harris announced her U.S. Senate bid to replace Senator Barbara Boxer who is retiring.  She is the first candidate to officially announce in what is shaping up to be a very crowd race and Harris is emerging as one of the top contenders.

Let’s take a closer look at Black women’s representation in Statehouses across the country. There are a total of 251 Black women state legislators in 2015, which is up from 242 at the end of 2014. The percentage of Black women among women state legislators increased to 14.1% in 2015 from 13.5% at the end of 2014.  The largest gains for new Black women were Maryland with seven, New York and Ohio with five new Black women each and Michigan with four new Black women.

The midterm elections provided a glimpse of Black women’s political imprint and their potential. Black women accounted for much of the increase in last year’s group of African-American political candidates. The road to 2016 provides a unique opportunity to develop a comprehensive strategy to truly harness Black women’s power and leadership potential.