A celebration of Black history came a month early in 2021 as Reverend Raphael Warnock, a Black Democrat pastor, defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler to become the first Black candidate from the Deep South elected to the United States Senate.
Warnock’s historic victory, confirmed in the early hours of January 6 in the traditionally conservative state of Georgia, is the latest example of the state shifting from a Republican bastion to a legitimate battleground statement. The Georgia electorate played an integral role in Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
The state of Georgia is now sending a Black man, who previously had no political experience but has served as a community organizer and senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church (a historic institution famously led by Martin Luther King Jr), to serve its people in the Senate.
As with any political victory when a challenger upends an incumbent, there will be much attributed to the successful strategy. In the case of Warnock’s win, there are tangible components that can be dissected by pundits, but additionally, there is a richer narrative of past and present history that cannot be ignored when discussing his path to a senate seat.
When unpacking the very long road to the U.S. Senate for Warnock, we can’t afford to minimize the following:
- 232 years of American senators being non-Black southerners
- A once-in-a-generation pandemic
- A period of racial reckoning of global proportions
- Thousands of lynched Black bodies in the Deep South/Georgia
- Millions of gallons of water drank from segregated water fountains
- Grossly incompetent and racist southern leadership
- A Black women-led movement for voter mobilization
- An innumerable amount of cross-burnings on the lawns of Black homes
- Support from some of the biggest names in politics and entertainment
- The steadfast power of the faith-based community
There is never an uncomplicated path to being the first Black anything in this country. Warnock’s ascension from the red clay dirt of Georgia to the Senate is a testament to the resilience of southern Black voters and an indictment of the racist political history that has kept Black southern candidates from previously achieving this feat.
But sometimes, long journeys lead to wonderful destinations.
About the Author
Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate, and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be
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