We’ve started the year off with a Black woman sworn in as vice president of the United States. Kamala Harris, a mixed Jamaican and Indian heritage, is the first Black American and first woman to hold the second-highest office in the country. It most definitely speaks volume that Black people are gaining a greater foothold in political leadership, but why are we still saying ‘first black’ 155 years later? Well, we know why. Nevertheless, it goes to show that racial gaps in America still remain. 

Black history is, without a doubt, worth being celebrated year-round. We have played a crucial role in helping the advancement and political landscape. With Juneteenth right around the corner, we’ve highlighted a few trailblazing political pioneers who have made history this year. 

Raphael Warnock

Raphael Warnock is Georgia’s first Black Senator. He is also the first Black Democrat Senator from the South since the Reconstruction Era. Warnock defeated Senator Kelly Loeffler in an intense runoff election. His victory set the pace for Democrats to gain control of the Senate. 

“That’s why I love this country so much and I refuse to give in to the forces of cynicism. It takes hard work. Change is slow, often it comes in fits and starts,” Warnock said. “Our democracy tends to expand and then there are moments when it contracts.”

Kim Janey 

Kim Janey made history when she was sworn in as the first Black person and first woman to lead Boston. Janey replaces Democrat Marty Walsh after he resigned to serve as President Biden’s labor secretary. She pledged to lead the city with “bold, courageous leadership.”

“Today is a new day. I stand before you as the first woman and the first Black mayor of Boston, the city that I love,” Janey said. “I come to this day with life experience that is different from the men who came before me.”

Ed Gainey

Pittsburgh is now on the boarder of electing Ed Gainey as its first Black mayor. He beat out Democrat Mayor Bill Peduto, who was first elected eight years ago. Gainey won almost half of the primary vote, where Black people make up about a quarter of Pittsburgh’s total population. Gainey is making history as he glides his way to becoming mayor later this fall.

“The message that we’re sending is that we want a city for all,” Gainey told NBC News. “We want a city that is an example of what modern America looks like today.”

Cori Bush

On January 3, Rep. Cori Bush became the first Black woman sworn into Congress in Missouri. Bush serves as the state’s first district that include the St. Louis Area. Bush gained momentum with a campaign that prioritized progressive policies including universal basic income, a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for All, criminal justice reform, and the Green New Deal. 

“I have lived low-wage. I’ve been unhoused, living out of a car with two children. I have lived uninsured … I’m a victim of violent crime. I’m a survivor of sexual assault and domestic violence. So I’ve been through so many things that have happened here in this community that haven’t really been addressed by our congressperson even though he’s been in that seat for 20 years.”

Thus, people of color have historically had a tougher time getting elected to Senate. In nearly 232 years of the US Senate there have only been 11 Black senators. Congress set a new diversity record this year with its highest ever number of women and racial minorities. There have only been four Black governors in U.S. history. While we’ve made progress this year, there’s still much more to be made.