Politics and Government

Mayoral Elections

What African Americans have been elected mayors of major cities?

Many cities in the U.S., from small to large, have elected blacks as mayor, the first of their race to hold these posts. Carl Burton Stokes was elected mayor of Cleveland in 1967 and became the first black elected mayor of a major American city. Others included Walter E. Washington, District of Columbia, 1967; Kenneth Allen Gibson, Newark, 1970; Thomas Bradley, Los Angeles, 1973; Coleman Alexander Young, Detroit, 1973; Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Atlanta, 1973; Ernest Nathan “Dutch” Morial, New Orleans, 1977; Harold Washington, Chicago, 1983; Woodrow Wilson Goode, Philadelphia, 1984; Kurt Lidell Schmoke, Baltimore, 1987; David Norman Dinkins, New York City, 1989; Norman Blann Rice, Seattle, 1989; and Ron Kirk, Dallas, 1995.

The first black woman to be elected mayor of a major American city was Sharon Pratt Dixon Kelly (1944–) in 1990. The Washington, D.C., native was educated at Howard University where she received her bachelor’s degree in 1965 and her law degree from the university’s law school in 1968. She held a number of positions before becoming mayor of Washington, D.C. Her experiences include house counsel for the Joint Center for Political Studies, an associate with Pratt and Queen law firm, and attorney and professor at Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C. Dixon joined Potomac Electric Power Company, serving as associate general counsel and later director of the office of consumer affairs (1979–1983), vice president of community relations (1983–1986), and vice president of public policy (1986–1989). While serving as mayor, she continued her involvement with the Democratic National Committee, where she has held such positions as acting general counsel, co-chair of the rules committee, and treasurer.

Other women have fared well in mayoral races, holding that office in Pasadena, California; Atlanta, Georgia; Hartford, Connecticut; Baltimore, Maryland; Houston, Texas; Dallas, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Dayton, Ohio; Evanston, Illinois; East St. Louis, Missouri; Hampton, Virginia; and Newport News, Virginia.


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