Yvonne Brathwaite Burke was the first Black woman elected to Congress from California as well as the first member of the House of Representatives to give birth while in office and the first to be given maternity leave by the Speaker of the House.
Indeed, Burke, who was elected to Congress in 1972 and served until 1979, was a trailblazer in many ways. Born in 1932, she graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles with a Bachelor’s degree and received a law degree from the University of Southern California in 1956. She married William Burke, a prominent philanthropist who was the creator of the Los Angeles Marathon (1966–1972).
From 1966 until 1972, she served as a member of the California State Assembly. Burke also served as a vice chair of the 1972 Democratic National Convention, the first African-American to hold that position.
She did not seek re-election to Congress in 1978, running instead for attorney general of the state. Burke won the Democratic primary but lost the election by Republican State Sen. George Deukmejian. She went on to serve as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Burke was the first female and first African-American supervisor. After that race, she was elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. She retired from that position when her term expired in 2008. On Thursday, March 29, 2012, President Obama appointed Burke to serve on the board of directors of Amtrak.
Yvonne Braithwaite Burke turns
Also on this day in Black History
1777 – African-Americans replace reluctant whites on the field of battle due to rising white desertions in the Continental Army (1777)
1867 – Monroe Baker, a well-to-do Black businessman, named mayor of St. Martin, Louisiana. He was probably the first Black to serve as mayor of a town.
1869 – First Reconstruction legislature met in Richmond, Virginia
1872 – Booker T. Washington, leaves Malden, West Virginia to enter Hampton Institute.