ATLANTA — On Jan. 21, the Rev. Raphael Warnock of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church made history. He became Georgia’s first African American United States senator.
“My mother, whom as a teenager growing up in Waycross, Georgia, used to pick somebody else’s cotton. The other day, because this is America, those 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” Warnock said.
Warnock now holds the highest elected office ever by an African American in Georgia.
Although Warnock symbolically walked the furthest, he didn’t make the first steps on the journey of African Americans in politics in Georgia.
In 1871, Jefferson Long of Macon became Georgia’s first African American congressman. Long would then be the only African American congressmen elected from Georgia for the next 100 years.
The streak was broken with the election of Andrew Young in 1972.
Despite Georgia’s growing African American population, it would take decades for representation to mirror the population in Congress.
In 1991, 27% of Georgia’s population was Black. However, only 1 out of 10 representatives was Black. The late Congressman John Lewis was the only Black representative for Georgia. Ten years later in 2001, 3 of the 11 members were African American. This number continued to rise. Now in 2021, 5 of the 14 congressional seats are held by African Americans.
“Regardless of your politics, you have to rejoice when you think of the full arc of our country,” Warnock said.
At this year’s Martin Luther King Junior commemorative service, Warnock said we’ve come a long way because of King’s push for equality. Warnock continues to push for equality and vows to be a senator for all Georgians.
“May my story be an inspiration to some young person who is trying to grasp and grab hold of the American dream,” Warnock said.
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