For nearly a decade, Higher Heights and the Center for American Women and Politics have teamed up to report on the status of Black women in American politics. In that period, Black women have seen representational gains across all levels of office, including in the federal executive, and achieved milestones as candidates and officeholders within states and nationwide. But the underrepresentation of Black women persists, and our organizations remain committed to documenting, analyzing, and addressing disparities in both political presence and power.
The 2022 election illuminated these realities. Record numbers of Black women ran for congressional and statewide elective executive offices and, as a result of the election, a record number of Black women now serve in Congress, in statewide elective executive office, and in state legislatures. Still, despite a record number of Black women running for and winning major-party nominations for the U.S. Senate and governor in 2022, last year’s election did not remedy the lack of Black women’s representation at either level. More work needs to be done to both understand and address the hurdles that these women confronted en route to top statewide offices. This will be immediately important as we look ahead to 2024, when Black women will compete for especially opportune open Senate seats, and to 2026, when the bulk of gubernatorial offices will be contested.
This report provides a foundation for this work, offering an overview of Black women’s political representation today and over the past decade, as well as indicators of how Black women fared in the most recent election.
The report illustrates:
A record number of Black women serve in congressional, statewide elective executive, and state legislative offices in 2023, with important gains made and milestones achieved over the past decade. Since 2020, Black women have ascended to the vice presidency and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Despite being 7.7% of the population, Black women are less than 6% of officeholders in Congress, statewide elective executive offices, and state legislatures. They are eight of the mayors in the nation’s 100 most populous cities.
A record number of Black women ran for the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and statewide elective executive offices – including governor – in 2022, and a record number of Black women were nominees for the U.S. Senate, statewide executive offices, and governor. These candidacies translated into record-level officeholding at multiple levels, but no Black women serve in the U.S. Senate today and no Black woman has ever served as governor.
Between 2022 and 2023, Black women’s state legislative representation remained nearly equal – achieving a new high but by just three seats – though a record number of Black women currently lead state legislative chambers.
Black women won big-city mayoral elections in Los Angeles, California and North Las Vegas, Nevada in 2022, and a Black woman is poised to be elected mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in November 2023.
There remain vast opportunities for growth in the number of Black women running and winning at all levels of office. The 2023 and 2024 elections offer immediate occasions for harnessing Black women’s political power both at the ballot box as voters and on the ballot as candidates.
“In 2022 we were able to celebrate many historic wins by Black women running for federal, statewide office, and mayors of the top 100 cities. However, as with all history-making moments, not every goal aimed for during the election was achieved, and we felt the deep loss of the hard-fought campaigns with efforts to elect a Black woman to the U.S. Senate and as this nation's first Black woman governor," said Glynda C. Carr, president and CEO of Higher Heights. "But make no mistake, Black women’s energy, work, and commitment to building a true democracy is continuing to diversify and improve America’s leadership. Black women have always understood the urgency of participating in our democracy and, when they see a lack of representation, they run to fill that void. We will continue to strive in 2023 and in 2024 to diversify and improve America’s leadership to include the presence of diverse perspectives at every level of government."
Higher Heights and CAWP issued their first report on the status of Black women in American politics in June 2014. Since then, 24 new Black women were elected to Congress, the number of Black women state legislators has risen by over 50%, Black women have made tremendous strides in representation as big-city mayors – with 15 Black women taking office as mayors in the top 100 most populous cities since mid-2014 – and a Black woman now serves as vice president.
“For nearly a decade, our reports on the status of Black women in U.S. politics have illustrated both the progress made and the persistent underrepresentation of Black women across levels of office,” said report author Kelly Dittmar, director of research at CAWP and associate professor of political science at Rutgers University-Camden. “These data are essential to guide the interventions necessary to ensure continued growth in Black women’s political representation and power.”
Previous Status of Black Women in American Politics reports have been in published in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021. To learn more and to join in these efforts, visit Higher Heights and the Center for American Women and Politics, follow us on social media, and sign up for our newsletters.