CitySeed’s mission is to engage the community in growing an equitable, local food system that promotes economic development, community development, and sustainable agriculture. While we primarily carry out this mission on the local level in CT, we have seen the ways in which elected officials at all levels of government can make a tangible impact on New Haven, the communities we serve, and the issues we fight for — food access, sustainable agriculture, immigration, inclusive economic development, livelihoods for entrepreneurs. This Presidents Day, and this Black History Month, we’re reflecting on how more diverse and inclusive leadership at all levels of government can lead to a more equitable food system.
Before 2008, the United States’ list of elected presidents consisted only of white men. On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama made history and became the first Black President of the United States. That moment in history provided every black child in America representation in a position that had only ever been occupied by white men.
In 2021, presidential history was made again when Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first Black, first woman, and first Asian American vice president in US history. These important moments have shifted American history but they were only made possible by the many African American politicians that came before them. This Presidents Day, let’s remember the influential African American men and women that paved the way for Obama and Harris.
Fredrick Douglass was the first African American to been nominated for vice president. He was nominated by the Equal Rights Party in 1872, as the running mate of Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for the top office. At the 1888 Republican National Convention, Douglass became the first African American to receive a vote for President of the United States in a major party’s roll call vote
Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman elected to the United States Congress and in 1972, Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman to seek a presidential nomination from a major party. Chisholm did not win the nomination but she did make the country rethink the idea that only white men were capable of becoming president in America.
Lenora Fulani decided to make her mark in the political sphere by running for president of the United States under the New Alliance Party (NAP) in 1988, making her the first woman and African American independent candidate to access the ballot in all 50 states. She gained 0.2 percent of the vote, receiving the most votes of any woman in a national presidential election until Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2012.
Jesse Jackson was the first major-party black candidate to run nationwide primary campaigns and to win individual states’ primaries or caucuses. He also competed as a Democrat. In 1984, he received around 3 million votes in the primaries, and in 1988, about 7 million.
And others, like George Edwin Taylor, Al Sharpton, Clifton DeBerry, Channing E. Phillips!