Black Women Rising

by | Jan 12, 2018 | Demographic Trends, Features, National Politics, NC Politics | 2 comments

This post was originally published by Janet Colm on on January 10, 2018.

If you caught Oprah’s amazing speech at the Golden Globes, you might be one of those jumping on the Oprah For President bandwagon.  Regardless of how you feel about that, one thing is clear:  when black women run for office, they win!

Across the country, turnout among black women is higher than for any other demographic group.  In 2016, turnout for black women in NC was 70% – nearly matching the registration rate for white women of 72%.

The intersection of prejudices against women and people of color can sometimes work to the advantage of black women running for office.  The Higher Heights Leadership Fund points out the black women candidates are able to draw support from multiple communities, championing issues of concern to both women and black people.

One result is that black women have outpaced both black men and white women in increasing representation in Congress over the past 20 years.

Almost two-thirds of black women who ran for the House of Representatives between 2000-14 won, compared with less than half of white women.

Just weeks ago, history was made again when Vi Lyles was sworn in as the first African American female mayor of Charlotte.

And she is not alone.  As of Election 2017, black women are now mayors of four of the 100 most populous US cities – in Baltimore, Toledo, Baton Rouge and Washington, DC.

Here in North Carolina, almost a third of the women serving in our state legislature are African Americans.  African American women account for 13 of our 170 legislators.  We have a higher percentage of African American women in our state legislature than all but 6 other states.

Is it any wonder that with power like this, voter suppression efforts are aimed squarely at Black women? Although the North Carolina voter ID law has been struck down by the courts as targeting “African Americans with almost surgical precision”, the impact of voter ID laws on women is sometimes overlooked.  Factoring in name changes with marriage and divorce, a study by the Brennan Center found that as many as 32 million voting-age women may not have documentation that reflects their current name!

Against this backdrop, a summit for Black women is being held in Atlanta on Feb. 22-25.  Power Rising: Building an Agenda for Black Women aims to build “an actionable agenda that leverages our individual and collective power and influence for the advancement of ourselves, our families, our communities and our future.”  For more information or to make a contribution, go to


  1. Norma Munn

    Impressive statistics re black women running and winning. Good to see. I am, however, hesitant to push for Oprah to run for the presidency. I think she is incredible, and partly I just do not want to see the nasty, cruel crap that will become her (and our) daily experience. I am also reluctant to endorse or encourage another extremely wealthy person (male or female of an color) without political experience to consider themselves qualified to be president of this country. Political office cannot, must not, be primarily for the wealthy. We are already too far down that path. I value political experience, and believe that it is better to have some before becoming president, or governor, or even mayor of most cities. Same for legislative jobs. Just not so much experience that one has become cynical. Still, the idea of Trump trying his obnoxious stalking game on stage against Oprah would be something to behold. She is a queen; he is — well, let’s just say a lackey and leave it at that.

  2. Walt de Vries, Ph.D.

    Fine. Now, let’s see women of color apply for a fellowship in the North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership. Many of the successful black women Janet Colm refers to in her piece on how they win elections were IOPL Fellows. The NC IOPL is the only place in this state that can teach men and women the hands-on skills necessary to win elections in this state. Good piece, Janet, keep up the good work.

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