Carol Moseley Braun became the first African-American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992.
Born on August 16, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois, Carol Moseley Braun was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, becoming the first black woman to earn that distinction. While in office, Moseley Braun was accused of misusing funds from her 1992 campaign, and she lost her next race. She joined the private sector in 2004.
Carol Moseley Braun was born Carol Elizabeth Moseley on August 16, 1947, in Chicago, Illinois. A leading African-American politician, Moseley Braun’s career has been marked by both great successes and missteps.
After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1969 with a degree in political science, Moseley Braun attended the university’s law school. She earned her law degree in 1972, and began working as an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago the following year.
Moseley Braun held her first political post as a Democratic representative to Illinois House of Representatives, beginning in 1978. As a representative, she was known as an advocate for social change, working for reforms in education, government, and healthcare. In 1988, she took another challenge. She was elected recorder of deeds for Cook County, Illinois, overseeing hundreds of employees as well as the public agency’s multimillion-dollar budget.
First Black Woman Elected to the Senate
In 1992, Moseley Braun made the leap to the national political arena: She ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate, looking to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Alan Dixon in the Democratic primary. Up against a seasoned politician who had spent decades in office, Moseley Braun appeared to be the underdog. But many responded to Moseley Braun as a chance for political change. She won the primary, but faced another tough opponent in Republican Richard Williamson. Williamson tried to capitalize on Moseley Braun’s mishandling of a tax situation. Although the scandal marred her campaign, she won the election, becoming the first African-American woman to win election to the U.S. Senate.
As a senator, Moseley Braun tackled many issues, including women’s rights and civil rights. She served on several committees, including the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Moseley Braun continued to support educational reforms and called for more restrictive gun control laws. Her time in office, however, was affected by claims that she misused funds from her 1992 campaign, spending the money on personal expenses. While no charges were ever filed, this allegation clung to Moseley Braun as she sought re-election in 1998.
Moseley Braun’s re-election campaign was also hindered by her Republican opponent Peter Fitzgerald. A self-financed candidate, Fitzgerald didn’t have restrictions on how much he could spend during his campaign. He won the election by a close margin. After leaving office, Moseley Braun was appointed U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa by President Bill Clinton in 1999. She left the post at the end of the Clinton Administration. A career-long advocate for education, Moseley Braun then taught at Morris Brown College.
In 2003, she campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination. Moseley Braun opposed the war in Iraq and spoke out about the country’s economic situation, but she dropped out of the race in early 2004 after failing to garner enough support. She asked her supporters to vote for Howard Dean.
Since then, Moseley Braun has been working as a business consultant and started an organic foods company called Good Foods Organics. She has one child: a son named Michael from her marriage to Michael Braun, which ended in divorce.