The first African American woman to serve in the United States
Senate, Carol Moseley-Braun, will deliver the keynote speech for
Emorys Womens History Month celebration, Monday, March
25, at 7:30 p.m. in Cannon Chapel.
The title of Moseley-Brauns address will be Right Side
Up, and she will discuss women who turn things around.
When the Womens History Month Committee began brainstorming
for a keynote speaker last fall, the former Illinois senators
name drifted to the top of the list. We discussed how womens
voices are not often heard in political contexts and how there arent
a lot of prominent women leaders, said Rachel Mather, special
program assistant at the Emory Womens Center. Mather sits
on the committee along with Womens Center Director Ali Crown
and a cross-section of staff, faculty and students from around the
In the wake of Sept. 11, we thought about how violence and
terror would either not happen or reactions might be different,
if there were more women with political power, Mather said.
If the idea was to find a political figure, Moseley-Braun, a Democrat
who served from 199298, was an ideal choice.
She is definitely a woman who is talking and acting, and
we see her as someone who is fierce, fearless and wise, said
Mather, referencing the theme of these years monthlong womens
A Chicago native, Moseley-Braun graduated with a bachelors
degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 1969, then received
her law degree from the University of Chicago three years later.
After earning her law degree, Moseley-Braun worked with the U.S.
attorneys office in Chicago and then served 10 years in the
Illinois state house, five of them as assistant majority leaderthe
first African American woman to hold that post.
In the early 1990s Moseley-Braun held the relatively anonymous
title of Cook County recorder of deeds. The contentious confirmation
hearings of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court and the way she
felt Anita Hill was treated led Moseley-Braun to challenge Democratic
Senator Alan Dixona major player in Thomas confirmationin
1992. A decided underdog, she defeated Dixon in the primary, then
topped Republican state Sen. Richard Williamson in the general election.
She represent[s] the aspirations of many African Americans
and many women who believe they havent been represented in
government, the Chicago Tribune said in an editorial following
Moseley-Brauns 1992 victory.
Several experts said Moseley-Brauns election, as well as
those of other women that year like Californias Barbara Boxer
and Washingtons Patty Murray, represented backlash against
the Senates then all-male judiciary committee that conducted
the Thomas confirmation hearings.
Ironically, Moseley-Braun eventually took a seat on the Senate
judiciary committee as well the finance and banking, housing and
urban affairs committees. She also was a member of the committees
on aging and taxes and entitlements.
Moseley-Braun sponsored a great deal of successful legislation,
including bills regarding low-income housing support, school construction
and womens pension equity.
Despite serving just one termMoseley-Braun was defeated for
re-election in 1998she viewed her accomplishments positively.
What my tenure most proved is that an African American girl
from the south side of Chicago could well represent the interests
of farmers, could well represent the interests of rich white males,
could well represent the interests of people from a variety of walks
of life, she told the Tribune following her 1998 loss. And
none of these aspects of situation or status were limitations.
It seemed to me the whole idea was moving the American dream
one step further. Moving it closer to the level of inclusion that
wed all like to think it represents, she said.
After her defeat, Moseley-Braun consulted for the Department of
Education before being named ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa
in 1999 by President Bill Clinton. She described her time in the
South Pacific as being ambassador to paradise.
Moseley-Braun currently is a visiting distinguished professor and
scholar-in-residence at Morris Brown College, where she is teaching
courses on political science. Since last year, Moseley-Braun also
has served at executive vice president of GoodWorks International,
an organization involved in business facilitation and development
in Africa, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. Andrew Young is
the co-founder and chairman of the Atlanta-based firm.
Moseley-Brauns keynote speech is free and open to the public.
For more information, contact Mather at the Womens Center