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The LGBTQ community have made historic strides in the world of politics. Those individuals owe a debt to Sherry D. Harris, the first out Black lesbian elected to office.

Harris was born on this day in 1957 in Newark, New Jersey. Growing up poor and the only child of a single mom, Harris endured poverty and other hardships including riots that rocked the city in 1967. However, she was inspired by the community support her mother displayed for others, using that to fuel her own activism later in life.

After graduating from the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 1978, Harris moved west to Seattle to work as an engineer but also involved herself in community activism that supported various causes including city improvement, women’s rights, and the LGBTQ community.

By way of her close alignment with the city through activism, Harris got close to the political machine. In 1991, she was elected to the Seattle City Council, beating incumbent Sam Smith by a whopping 70 percent. The passing of the torch from Smith to Harris was fitting as the losing councilman was the first Black person elected to the city council and Harris would become the first Black woman to gain a seat.

A bid for reelection in 1995 was not successful, and Harris attempted a comeback afterwards but failed. Since that time, Harris published a book, Changing the World from the Inside Out: Politics for the New Millennium in 2010. She also lectures nationally and internationally.

PHOTO: Fair Use

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