Culture

Meet Stacey Abrams, The Political Powerhouse Who Refused To Give Up And Turned A Red-State Blue

Meet Stacey Abrams, The Political Powerhouse Who Refused To Give Up And Turned A Red-State Blue

Give Stacey her flowers! 

Stacey Abrams has always been a star. She made her debut to the world in Wisconsin on December 9, 1973, and was raised in Gulfport, Mississippi. Abrams' mother is a retired librarian; her father, a former shipyard worker who reared her and her five siblings in a tight-knit religious home. When she was a teen, they moved the family to Atlanta to pursue graduate divinity studies as they both intended to become Methodist ministers. There, Abrams attended Avondale High School and became a politician for the first time.

Abrams told Essence she'd been elected on a whim, "I was away on a trip, and while I was gone, I got elected to a [student board]. I didn't actually run. I was just not there. So they put my name in, and that was my first election. It was a great way to win an election, not to have to run, not to even have to put my name in."

She graduated as valedictorian of her high school class and continued her studies at Spelman College, where she continued to pursue student politics, this time on purpose. She ran for the student class council her freshman year, and by the time she graduated, she'd been elected president of the Student Government Association. She managed to balance her academics with attending Atlanta's city council meetings while working as a research assistant position at City Hall in the Office of Youth Services.

Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, Spelman's first Black woman president from 1987 to 1997, told Essence she remembers Abrams as "exceptional." 

Following her graduation in 1995, Abrams continued her education, receiving a Master's of Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and a Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School. She became a tax attorney and an entrepreneur; then, in 2006, she was elected to the Georgia General Assembly in the House of Representatives. 

In 2010, she broke a glass ceiling in the red-state when she became both the first woman and Black person to lead as House Minority Leader. Her star has risen for years, especially after her rousing speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention about economic inequality. She even became the first Black woman to give the formal response to the 2019 State of the Union address in the custom’s 53-year history.

Abrams is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, serving on the Subcommittee on Diversity. And a member of former Secretary of State John Kerry’s World War Zero bipartisan coalition on climate change.  Abrams has also written eight romantic suspense novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery, in addition to Lead from the Outside, formerly Minority Leader, a guidebook on making real change, and Our Time is Now.

Although she lost her 2018 bid to become the first Black woman governor in United States history, she hasn't lost steam. She refocused her efforts on ensuring fair voting across the country. Her website, Fair Fight, says, "After witnessing the gross mismanagement of the 2018 election by the Secretary of State's office, Abrams launched Fair Fight to ensure every American has a voice in our election system through programs such as Fair Fight 2020, an initiative to fund and train voter protection teams in 20 battleground states." 

As the current election comes to a close, we see how her ability to create initiatives has worked as Georgia turns Blue for Biden. Abrams and Fair Fight registered a massive number of approximately 800,000 new voters since 2018. They helped end unfair policies like "exact match," which required registrations to match voters' licenses down to the hyphen, or they'd be tossed out. On November 2, Abrams told NPR, "45% of those new voters are under the age of 30. 49% are people of color. And all 800,000 came on the rolls after November '18, which means these are voters who weren't eligible to vote for me, but are eligible to participate in this upcoming election."

As she learned that Georgia could turn blue for the first time in 28 years, Abrams shared her excitement via Twitter.

"Charge any omissions to my head. My heart is full," Abrams tweeted this morning. "Georgia, let's shout out those who've been in the trenches and deserve the plaudits for change."

Thank you for all your hard work, Stacey. The country owes you one.

 Photo Credit: Getty Images/StaceyAbrams.com