Many Americans believe the 2020 election is the most important of their lifetimes, including the many Black men and women who are running for a U.S. Senate seat.
More Black Americans are running in this election than ever before, due to the injustices Black Americans faced every day over the last four years. Now, Black Americans are trying to change the system from the inside.
Here are a few of the five Black men and 13 Black women running for a U.S. Senate seat.
Jaime Harrison (D-S.C.)
If you don’t know the man who has his opponent Lindsey Graham literally begging for money on Fox News, it’s about that time. Harrison, the son of a single, teenage mom, was raised by his grandparents in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Through determination and hard work, he overcame the challenges of poverty with the help of teachers and mentors to attend and graduate from Yale University and Georgetown Law.
Harrison came back to his hometown to teach and set an example of success for young Black children in the community he grew up in. In 2013, Harrison was elected the first African American chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, a position he held until 2017.
Earlier this year Harrison was an afterthought in the South Carolina Senate race, but after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Harrison saw a wave of unprecedented financial support. Additionally, Harrison has also received endorsements from a bevy of Democrats including potential Vice President Kamala Harris, Majority Whip James Clyburn, and former President Barack Obama.
Mike Espy (D-Miss.)
Espy was already an all-star in the Democratic Party before running for a Senate seat in Mississippi. Epsy is the first Black American and the first from the south to be named Secretary of Agriculture, when he was appointed by former President Clinton in 1993.
Espy was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi, in 1953 and attended Howard University and Santa Clara Law School. Espy eventually became the Assistant Secretary of State for Mississippi, where he helped change the school’s funding law in order to increase revenue for rural schools. He also served as Mississippi’s Assistant Attorney General and the Director of Consumer Protection.
Espy is running against Cindy Hyde-Smith, who he narrowly lost to in a special election in 2018. Espy told state residents in 2018 that he’s going to work with anyone who wants to make Mississippi a better place to live and work.
Marquita Bradshaw (D-Tenn.)
Bradshaw, a Memphis native and a single mom, defeated Army helicopter pilot James Mackler in the Democratic primary to become the first African American woman to win a major political party nomination in any statewide race in Tennessee.
Environmental activism has been a part of Bradshaw’s life since she was a child. According to the Associated Press, after Bradshaw’s mother Doris and father Kenneth discovered waste disposal was contaminating soil and groundwater in their neighborhood, they started the Defense Depot Memphis Concerned Citizen Committee, a group of teachers, business owners, and professionals concerned about emerging health problems.
Bradshaw’s platform features increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, adopting the Green New Deal, expanding Medicare, and requiring universal background checks for gun purchases. Bradshaw is looking for another victory in the general election over Bill Hagerty.
John James (R-Mich.)
James is an Army helicopter pilot who graduated from West Point in 2004 and served for eight years, participating in multiple tours of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom. After being honorably discharged, James returned to his hometown of Detroit to work in his family’s supply chain business.
James lost the 2018 U.S. Senate election in Michigan to incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow. Two years later, James is running for the same seat against Democrat Gary Peters in the general election.
James’ platform includes improving healthcare and educational opportunities in Michigan, workforce development, and overhauling infrastructure including roads, bridges, dams and blight.