In 1987, Alice Harden became the first black woman in the Mississippi state Senate. One year later, she was elected to the DNC. Harden represented a state that was over 35 percent black, but only held 3 black members in the Senate, with Harden becoming the first woman.

Harden, who was known for her political platforms surrounding education, women and children, passed away on December 6th at age 64 from an undisclosed illness.  The Pike County native was a member of the Legislative Black Caucus.

The former teacher graduated from Jackson State University. In 1985, she led a teachers’ strike to get higher pay for public school instructors. Harden was an advocate for free kindergarten. She had also served as the President of the Mississippi Association of Education from 1984 to 1987.

Harden’s legacy in the Senate was coupled with her fight for women and children. She left a memory with her public refusal to pass a 2006 bill that nearly banned abortion rights in Mississippi. Harden argued that she would not support legislature that banned the right to choose. She despised being labeled as “anti-life” by opponents of abortion.

Last year, during a voting rights act issue, Harden publicly believed that some members were still “living in the 60’s” and had hoped that the Senate would “get beyond having to submit everything that we do as far as voting to the Justice Department.”

Senator Alice Harden is survived by her husband Dennis.

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