Women’s History Month: Carol Moseley Braun 

Have you ever heard of Carol Moseley Braun? She served as a U.S. senator from 1993 to 1999. Braun was the first female African American elected to the U.S. Senate. Here, btw takes a closer look at her life and contributions to American politics and beyond. 

Early Life 

Carol Moseley Braun was born in Chicago, Illinois, on August 16, 1947. Her mother was a medical technician and her father was a police officer. They divorced when Moseley Braun was a teenager. The oldest of four children, she was raised on the city’s south side. Moseley Braun has spoken about growing up in a racially integrated middle-class neighborhood where her race and gender did not seem like a disadvantage. She was taught that anyone could achieve anything if they worked hard enough. She attended the University of Illinois and graduated with a degree in political science in 1969. From there, she went on to the University of Chicago Law School, earning her juris doctor (law degree) in 1972. While there, she founded the school’s first Black law students’ association. 

As a teenager in 1966, Moseley Braun joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a march for fair housing rights. She later spoke about how moved she was to witness Dr. King’s peaceful and nonviolent resistance, even in the face of violent attacks from opponents. In the 1970s, this commitment to activism guided Moseley Braun to a career in politics.  

Political Career 

From 1973 to 1977, Moseley Braun worked as a prosecutor in the office of the U.S. Attorney in Chicago. She was elected to the Illinois state legislature in 1978 and served there for ten years. She ran for lieutenant governor of Illinois in 1986 but lost. She did not let that setback stop her from running for elective office. In 1988, she went on to become Recorder of Deeds for Cook County, Illinois, making her the first African American elected to an executive position in that county. In 1992, she beat out both a Democratic incumbent and a Republican challenger to become a U.S. Senator. Not only was she the first female African American senator, but she was also the first female senator elected from Illinois.  

While serving in the Senate, Moseley Braun always kept civil rights at the forefront of her legislative agenda. She worked for progressive educational policies, gun safety legislation, and policies that focused on women and family issues. 

Later Life 

Braun ran for re-election in 1998 and lost. But her political career did not end there. From 1999 to 2001, she served as the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand. She was the U.S. ambassador to Samoa from 2000 to 2001. Meanwhile, she continued her political campaigns, though largely unsuccessfully. Braun ran for president in 2004 but failed to secure the Democratic Party’s nomination. She also ran for mayor of Chicago in 2011 but lost that race as well.  

After leaving politics, Mosely Braun entered the business world and founded Good Food Organics, an organic products company. In 2016, she became a visiting professor of political science at Northwestern University. Currently, she serves on several boards and commissions. In 2023, President Biden nominated Mosely Braun to be Chair of the United States African Development Foundation.  

Dig Deeper Only one African American woman has been elected to the U.S. Senate since Moseley Braun. Who was she?