Pennsylvania legislative caucus will honor black political pioneers

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The Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus will host its annual Black History Month celebration Wednesday on the steps of the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg.

This year's event will pay tribute to political pioneers, such as Colin Powell, the first black secretary of state; the late Ron Brown, the first black secretary of commerce; and Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.

The event also will honor Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to be elected to Congress who, in 1972, became the first major-party black candidate for president. She died in 2005.

A second honoree is Crystal Bird Fauset, a former Philadelphia resident and the first black woman elected to the state House of Representatives in 1938. She died in 1965.

"Essentially, we want to pay homage to those who blazed the trail within the realm of politics and government," said Brandon Flood, executive director of the black caucus.

Wednesday's program will include musical performances, dramatic presentations, poetry and a historical re-enactment of Chisholm's life by Ardie Brown of the Stuart Sisters, a Philadelphia performing troupe.

Born in 1924 in New York City, Ms. Chisholm received strict British schooling on Barbados as a young girl before returning to the city in 1934.

After graduating from an all-girls school, she earned an undergraduate degree from Brooklyn College in 1946 and a master's degree in elementary education at Columbia University in 1952.

After working in education for a decade, she was elected to the New York state Legislature in 1964. In 1968 she ran as the Democratic candidate for New York's 12th District congressional seat and was elected, becoming the first black woman in Congress.

She was one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971.

The following year, she made a bid for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination but lost to George McGovern. She retired from Congress in 1982 and moved to Florida, where she died.

After Wednesday's re-enactment and the other events, the black caucus and its chairwoman, Rep. Vanessa Lowery-Brown, D-Philadelphia, will host a lunch for participants and guests in the K. LeRoy Irvis Office Building.

electionspa - state

Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.


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