Before there was Kamala Harris, there were the many African American women who paved the way for black women in politics. One such woman was Charlotta Bass: journalist, activist, educator, and businesswoman.
For nearly forty years before entering politics, Bass published one of the most popular black newspapers of the time, a weekly paper called the California Eagle, where she adamantly encouraged women to take up politics and fought against segregation in housing developments and public spaces. She played a key role in spreading information about the national women’s suffrage movement and covered the passage of the 19th Amendment. Under the growing threat of communism after World War II, her “radical” ideas of equality among all Americans regardless of race brought attention from the FBI. Their aggressive, investigative actions motivated Bass to take up politics in 1951, and within a year, she became Vice President of the Progressive Party. Although there was little hope of winning the election, Bass found it important to represent black women in politics on a national level. Her run for vice president redefined who could have a voice in their government and showed that African American issues mattered. Fifteen years after her run for Vice President, the FBI still considered Charlotta Bass, a 91 year old woman then, to be “potentially dangerous.”
- Raising Her Voice: African-American Women Journalists Who Changed History by Rodger Streitmatter
- African American Women and the Vote, 1837 – 1965 by Ann D. Gordon and Bettye Collier-Thomas
- Women and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954 – 1965 by Davis W. Houck and David E. Dixon