With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Carrie Meek, Trailblazing Black Congresswoman, Dies at 95

Former Rep. Carrie Meek, who broke barriers throughout her winding political career as the daughter of a sharecropper and granddaughter of a slave, died Sunday in her Miami home. She was 95.

Meek's death came after a "long illness," family spokesperson Adam Sharon said in a statement describing the late Florida Democrat's "trailblazing" life and legacy.

Her children Lucia Davis-Raiford, Sheila Davis Kinui, and retired Rep. Kendrick B. Meek of Florida provided a statement about her legacy to CNN.

It read: "Carrie Meek was our family matriarch who fulfilled this role for the entire South Florida community. She was a bridge builder and healer, a unifier with a legacy defined by selfless public service. Forever the educator, the Congresswoman taught us all lessons about justice and morality. Her approach was rooted in kindness and humility. Carrie Meek made our society stronger and more equitable — an outcome that is an everlasting tribute to our beloved mother. She was guided by her faith, always inspired by the outpouring of love and community support. We humbly ask for your prayers at this time."

Meek was born in Tallahassee, Florida in 1926, according to her congressional biography. After serving as Miami-Dade Community College's first Black professor, associate dean and assistant to the vice president, Meek beat out 12 other candidates when she ran for the Florida state House in 1978.

Just five years later, she became the first Black woman elected to the state senate.

Meek would go on to leverage her career in state government into a successful US House campaign in 1992. Alongside former Reps. Corrine Brown and Alcee Hastings, Meek joined Congress as one of the first Black members elected since the Reconstruction Era.

For the next decade, she used her legislative perch to push a range of Democratic priorities from immigration reform to economic development. ''We see showboats and we see tugboats,'' late civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis said in 1999 of the different legislative styles in Congress. ''She's a tugboat. I never want to be on the side of issues against her.''

Meek retired in 2002 and was succeeded by her son Kendrick, who ran successfully for her House seat and held it for four terms.

Read entire article at CNN