Pearl Dowe Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Political Science and African American Studies

Headshot of Pearl Dowe 1x1  @PkDPhD

Areas of Expertise

  • Elections
  • African American political behavior
  • Gender and politics
  • African American political leadership


Pearl Dowe, PhD, a Georgia native, is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Political Science and African American Studies. Her research includes African American political behavior, gender and politics, and African American political leadership. Most recently, she has focused on political ambition and public leadership in African American women. She is co-author of Remaking the Democratic Party: Lyndon B. Johnson as Native-Son Presidential Candidate (2016) and editor of African Americans in Georgia: A Reflection of Politics and Policy Reflection in the New South (2010). She has published numerous articles and book chapters, presented widely at professional conferences and gives frequent media interviews.



The historic choice of Kamala Harris as the first Black and Asian American woman vice-presidential nominee on a major party ticket amplified the voices of Black women who had called for the Democratic Party to support a woman of color on this year’s ticket. After decades of little representation at the highest levels of national government, Black women helped break through that glass ceiling, says Pearl Dowe — a milestone moment itself.

“The push to turn out African American voters is very strong — that was evident during the Democratic National Convention, in which every night speakers were targeting African American voters,” she says. “It was very clear the Biden campaign was placing an emphasis on increasing the turnout.”

In fact, Dowe predicts a high turnout of Black, Latinx and Asian American women voters at the polls this year. “The question isn’t turnout,” she says. “The question is ‘Will white women continue to vote Republican the way they did in 2016?’” In the past 60 years, white women overwhelming supported a Democratic presidential candidate over a Republican candidate only twice — in 1964 and 1996, according to Dowe.

Early polling data indicates that Black male voters are “not as enthusiastic about the Biden-Harris ticket as Black women” — possibly in response to a narrative that Harris was tough on crime and contributed to a disproportionate number of African American men being incarcerated during her tenure as California’s attorney general, as well as lingering sexist beliefs that women don’t belong in leadership roles, notes Dowe.

Among Harris’ campaign strengths will be her ability to mobilize communities of voters, including a sprawling network of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters and fellow alumni from Howard University, among the nation’s 107 historically black colleges and universities. That constitutes a significant pool of college-educated professionals and potential voters capable of mobilizing other voters and donating money, says Dowe.

Studies show that Black women vote at higher rates than all other gender and racial subgroups, notes Dowe: “What is unique about Black women and voting is they not only turn out, they mobilize.”

Harris’ role may also signal a “changing of the guard” within the Democratic National Committee, which has elected only one African American (Ron Brown) to serve as a full-time chair. With her vice-presidential nomination, Harris may help open the door for more Black party operatives in visible positions, she adds.

That fits within the larger role that Black women are playing across the political spectrum in America, she says. This fall, 74 African American women are running for Congressional and statewide seats, notes Dowe. She predicts that many will win, making their own marks, serving their communities and increasing the strength of Democrats within Congress and state legislatures.

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Democratic National Convention (Aug. 21, 2020)

Overall, the DNC this week showed moving forward Biden and his campaign really see an opportunity for victory based on black voter turnout. It was apparent, particularly last night within the first hour. The ques were not subtle. The little black boy, Cedric Richmond Jr., reciting the pledge of allegiance in front of the “I am Man” backdrop, Biden’s first statement, the tribute to John Lewis to name a few. The whole night consisted of very obvious ques to black voters, “You matter.” From references to Ella Baker to Keisha Lance Bottoms’ speech, these were not just symbols but real leaders who value community engagement. I’m curious to see if and when the DNC will put resources against their efforts to reach black voters. It needs to happen now and early, not in late October.

Fifth Democratic Debate (Nov. 21, 2019)

The recent Democratic Party Debate was one of the more engaging debates and candidates. The significance of the host city was not lost on the candidates who attempted to interject issues concerning  African Americans and women throughout the evening. However, the issue of voter suppression was not raised until very late. This issue should be one of the most pressing for each candidate and the Democratic Party. The challenges that voters face to register and cast ballots are a direct challenge to representative democracy. The communities that are often plagued with purges, voter ID laws, long lines and faulty machines consist of those that are more likely to vote Democratic and turn out when mobilized. Not only should the candidates speak to this issue, its origins and mechanisms to end disenfranchisement they need to address the complexity of the economic and societal issues that these voters face. If the candidates and the ultimate nominee do not continue to earnestly discuss voter suppression along with policy solutions for the concerns of African Americans, Democrats will face an uphill climb to be successful in the fall.

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