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Montana’s has one of the lowest Black populations nationwide but  in 1974, Geraldine W. Travis shattered a political barrier there. Travis, the wife of a U.S. Air Force airman, was elected to the state’s House of Representatives, becoming the first Black official elected to Montana’s legislature.

Geraldine Washington Travis was born September 3, 1931 in Albany, Ga. She and her husband, William Travis, moved around various Air Force bases with their five children before settling in Montana in 1967. While there, Travis involved herself in several civil rights initiatives, helping to found the Great Falls branch of the NAACP and a Montana chapter of the National Council of Negro Women. Travis also worked for the 1972 presidential campaign for Shirley Chisholm, and served as a delegate for her state during the Democratic National Convention held later that year in Miami, Fla.

Because of a limited amount of registered voters, given the transient nature of residents in her mostly military district, Travis won her seat with just 20 votes. She lost her seat during a reelection bid in 1976 but remained politically active in the state before relocating to Arizona in 1989.

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