Carol Moseley Braun landed in the history books as the first African-American woman elected to the United States Senate. The feat is especially resonant as Ms. Braun remains the only Black woman thus far to hold that office.
Born in Chicago, Ill. on August 16, 1947, Braun was raised by father Joseph, a Chicago police officer, and mother Edna, a medical technician. She lived a modest life in the city’s South Side eventually earning her law degree in 1972 from the University of Chicago Law School.
Braun married a fellow law student, Michael Braun, in 1973. The couple, divorced since 1986, has one son, Matthew. Braun worked in the United States Attorney’s office in Chicago as a prosecutor from 1973 until 1977.
Her political career began the following year as she was elected to the state’s House of Representatives and remained there until 1988. During her tenure in the state legislature, Braun gained a reputation of being a staunch advocate for education, welfare, and healthcare reforms.
After leaving the House, she was elected to the government post as the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, holding the position for four years. Braun’s Senate run was inspired by incumbent Democratic Senator Alan Dixon vote in favor of confirming Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Braun won her party’s primary and was elected to the United States Senate on November 3, 1992. She took office in 1993, serving just one term. Braun was only the second African-American elected to the Senate and the only Black senator during her entire term.
As she did in Chicago, Braun worked hard to advance social changes and women’s rights. Braun sought reelection in 1998, but questionable claims that she misused campaign funds for personal reasons hurt her campaign.
She left the Senate in 1999. Then-President Bill Clinton then appointed Braun as the United States Ambassador to New Zealand, where she served until the end of Clinton’s second term. Braun attempted to make another splash in politics in 2004, running in the Democratic Party presidential nomination race.
After she dropped out the race, she backed Howard Dean. Braun also challenged for the mayoral seat in Chicago, gaining just nine percent of the vote. Braun left politics altogether but still runs her own law firm, and launched a line of food products, Ambassador Organics.
Earlier this year in Washington, Braun was a guest at an event honoring past and current senators. She remarked on the lack of diversity in Congress, stating it was a “small wonder” why the disparity still exists.