African American history: The 10 African American politicians who have been researched most often

President Barack Obama, African American Politicians

President Barack Obama (photo by Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project)

Black History Month got us to wondering which African American politicians have been the most influential in African American history. So, we decided to use Questia, our online research tool with a library of more than 77,000 academic books, to compile the top 10 list of which African American politician have been researched most frequently.

Among the African American political figures of our time, you probably guessed that President Barack Obama gets researched the most, but discover who else students and researchers have been studying this Black History Month and throughout the year. We were a little surprised to see that Jesse Jackson was next in line at number two. And a little embarrassed to see that we had not heard of number six, Joseph Rainey.

We decided to let you have a free look at some of the reference documents, so we are making the reference works on each of them available for free for one month. For more information, you can visit the topic page on African American History, one of the thousands of topic pages available on Questia.

1. President Barack Obama: Being that he is our current Commander in Chief, it’s no surprise that President Barack Obama is the most researched African American politician at this time. He’s also the first African American president of the United States. [Corra, Mamadi.“The State of Black America on the Heels of the Election of Barack Obama as the First African American President of the United States.” The Western Journal of Black Studies 33.3 (2009): 192+.]

2. Jesse Jackson: A protégé of Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson attempted to become the first African American president with strong campaigns in both 1984 and 1988 for the Democratic nomination. His attempts captured America’s attention and he remains an active civil rights leader. [Levy, Peter B. Let Freedom Ring: A Documentary History of the Modern Civil Rights Movement. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1992.]

3. Ralph Bunche: Ralph Bunche may not be a household name now, but after World War II he was. This important historical figure didn’t run for office, but became the first African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the United Nations. [Yates, Eleanor Lee. “The Quiet Activist”. Black Issues in Higher Education 8 February 2002: 46+.]

4. Barbara Jordan: In 1966, Barbara Jordan became the first African American to be elected to the Texas senate, and six years later, the first to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives since Reconstruction. She achieved national renown on the House Judiciary Committee when it investigated the Watergate affair in 1974. [Aynesworth, Hugh. “Barbara Jordan, Respected Former Lawmaker, Dies: 3-Term Congresswoman Was 59.” The Washington Times [Washington D.C.] 18 January 1996, 4]

5. Adam Clayton Powell Jr.: First a New York City council member, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. was elected to U.S. Congress in 1945. In 1967, he was excluded by the House of Representatives for allegedly misusing funds, among other things, but that didn’t stop him from being overwhelmingly reelected in 1967 and 1968. [Rushing, Lawrence. “The Racial Identity of Adam Clayton Powell Jr.: a Case Study in Racial Ambivalence and Redefinition.” Afro – Americans in New York Life and History 34.1 (2010): 7+]

6. Joseph Rainey: The first African American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Joseph Rainey was a leader in the fight to secure civil rights for free slaves. He started his political careers as a Republican in the South Carolina senate. [“Rainey, Joseph Hayne.” The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. (2009).]

7. Shirley Chisholm: Defeating a well-known civil rights leader, Shirley Chisholm became the first African American woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1968. She was an advocate for not only African Americans’ rights, but women’s rights as well. [Hardy, Gayle J. American Women Civil Rights Activists: Biobibliographies of 68 Leaders. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1993.]

8. Tom Bradley: This liberal Democrat became the first African American mayor of Los Angeles in 1973. He was reelected four times, and served until 1993. Although exit polls predicted he would win the race to become Governor of California by a comfortable margin in 1982, he went on to lose and lost again in 1986. [Roper, John. “‘Bradley Effect’ Will Tell a Lot about America’s Voters; US ELECTION as the Polls Open on One of the Most Eagerly-Awaited US Presidential Elections Ever, Welsh Academic and US Political Expert Professor Jon Roper Gives His Verdict on the Race for the White House.” Western Mail [Wales] 4 November 2008, 5.]

9. Vernon Jordan: Though he never ran for office, Vernon Jordan has been an influential civil rights leader and lawyer all of his adult life. He joined the political scene in 1992 as head of the transition team for incoming President Bill Clinton. He went on to become a Clinton adviser, and published his memoir in 2001. [Jordan, Vernon E., Jr. and Annette Gordon-Reed. Vernon Can Read! A Memoir. New York: Public Affairs, 2001.]

10. Hiram R. Revels: Elected in 1870 to an unexpired term, Hiram Revels was the first African American to sit in the U.S. Senate. After his one-year Senate term, this activist became president of Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi. [Lowery, James D. and John F. Marszalek. Encyclopedia of African-American Civil Rights: From Emancipation to the Present. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.]

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think of the list. Did it surprise you? Who, among these notable African American politicians, is someone you relate to or appreciate the most?

1 reply
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