February is Black History Month. Let's take a quick look at some of the firsts for Black Americans in government:
Local elected official: John Mercer Langston, 1855, town clerk of Brownhelm Township, Ohio. State elected official: Alexander Lucius Twilight, 1836, the Vermont legislature. Mayor of major city: Carl Stokes, Cleveland, Ohio, 1967–1971. The first black woman to serve as a mayor of a major U.S. city was Sharon Pratt Dixon Kelly, Washington, DC, 1991–1995. Governor (appointed): P.B.S. Pinchback served as governor of Louisiana from Dec. 9, 1872–Jan. 13, 1873, during impeachment proceedings against the elected governor. Governor (elected): L. Douglas Wilder, Virginia, 1990–1994. The only other elected black governor has been Deval Patrick, Massachusetts, 2007– U.S. Representative: Joseph Rainey became a Congressman from South Carolina in 1870 and was reelected four more times. The first black female U.S. Representative was Shirley Chisholm, Congresswoman from New York, 1969–1983. U.S. Senator: Hiram Revels became Senator from Mississippi from Feb. 25, 1870, to March 4, 1871, during Reconstruction. Edward Brooke from Massachusetts became the first African-American Senator since Reconstruction, 1966–1979. Carol Mosely Braun became the first black woman Senator serving from 1992–1998 for the state of Illinois. (There have only been a total of five black senators in U.S. history: the remaining two are Blanche K. Bruce [1875–1881] and Barack Obama (2005–2008). U.S. cabinet member: Robert C. Weaver, 1966–1968, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Lyndon Johnson; the first black female cabinet minister was Patricia Harris, 1977, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Jimmy Carter. U.S. Secretary of State: Gen. Colin Powell, 2001–2004. The first black female Secretary of State was Condoleezza Rice, 2005–2009. Major Party Nominee for President: Sen. Barack Obama, 2008. The Democratic Party selected him as its presidential nominee. U.S. President: Sen. Barack Obama. Obama defeated Sen. John McCain in the general election on November 4, 2008, and was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States on January 20, 2009.