First Black Woman in Mississippi Legislature Gets Her Own Portrait in State Capitol


February 21, 2024

Former Mississippi representative, Alyce Clarke, is now honored in the state’s Capitol!

Clarke was the first Black woman elected to the state’s legislature and now she is the first place person (and woman) to have her portrait on display in the building, according to AP News. She is an 84-year-old Democrat from Jackson who served Mississippi for 39 years before she decided not to seek reelection last year. “Thank God, I’ve had more good days than I’ve had bad days,” she said during the ceremony. “And I’d just like to thank everybody who’s here. I’d like to help everybody who’s helped me to get here because I did nothing by myself.”

The other portraits in the Mississippi Capitol are all of white men. They include former governors and former House speakers, but there are no Black people or women. The artist who painted Clarke’s portrait based it on a photo of her from the mid-1980s.

“I’m a true believer and witness of the good she has done,” Ryan Mack, the artist who painted the portrait, said. Clarke, early in her legislative career, established Born Free, a drug and alcohol treatment center for pregnant women. In the 1990s, she also established Mississippi’s first drug courts, which provide supervision, drug testing, and treatment services to help keep people out of prison.


Democratic Rep. Robert Johnson of Natchez said that Clarke was persistent in seeking support for her alma mater, Alcorn State University. He said, “I’m going to tell you: The city of Jackson, the drug courts, the lottery, and Alcorn State University — nobody had a better champion than Alyce Clarke.”

Cover photo: First Black Woman in Mississippi Legislature Gets Her Own Portrait in State Capitol / AP Photo / Rogelio V. Solis

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