Botwc Firsts

Remembering Charlotta Bass, The First Black Woman To Run For VP In 1952

Remembering Charlotta Bass, The First Black Woman To Run For VP In 1952

Standing on the shoulders of giants!

In honor of Senator Kamala Harris' Democratic nomination for vice president, we wanted to pay homage to the woman who paved the way, Charlotta Bass, the first Black woman to run for Vice President in 1952. 

Last week, Senator Kamala Harris was announced as presidential candidate Joe Biden's running mate, becoming the first Black woman and first Indian American to be nominated for vice president on a major party ticket. But Harris isn't the first Black woman to run for the seat, that title belongs to activist Charlotta Bass.

According to DemocracyNow, Bass was a journalist and political activist who served as editor of one of the country's oldest Black newspapers, The California Eagle, for nearly 30 years. In 1952, Bass joined the Progressive Party ticket, running her campaign on antiracism, fair housing, and equal healthcare access. She ran alongside presidential candidate Vincent Hallinan with the slogan, "Win or lose, we win by raising the issues." The two lost to Dwight Eisenhower, but Bass had already made her mark and inadvertently paved the way for Harris nearly 70 years later. 

"I think it's important to emphasize the fact that Kamala Harris is certainly... standing on the shoulders of Charlotta Bass. We often...sideline Black radical politics…[but] one of the things that we know about Charlotta Bass is that she truly engaged in what can best be described as pragmatic activism," University of Pittsburgh professor, author, and historian Keisha Blain said. "She was a leader in the NAACP [and] she was a leader in the Universal Negro Improvement Association...two organizations that were radically different, even as they were equally committed to Black progress," said 

Bass was relentless in her commitment to Black politics and freedom, lending her support to any group or political party she felt was moving the needle forward, and withdrawing support if they failed to meet the mark. She confronted the KKK, addressed police brutality and violence, and spoke out against harmful media representation, including the anti-Black 1915 film Birth of a Nation.

"I think her efforts really captured the way that she was concerned with not only, you know, certainly, various aspects of Black politics, but she was concerned with how Black people were being represented on screen," Blain. "And as a journalist, she understood the power of words, she understood the power of imagery. And I think that's just one example of how she was truly, I think, a fierce advocate for Black people."  

In Harris' acceptance speech, she thanked the multiple women whose shoulders she stands on. Chief of those is Charlotta Bass to whom we owe so much respect, honor, and reverence.

Thank you for your work, Ms. Charlotta Bass. 

Photo Courtesy of wednesdayswomen.com