Special Collections & Archives Banner

You are here

Main Content

Black Female Politicians

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (right), Maxine Waters (2nd from right), and CAAM Director Aurelia Brooks pose while holding a shovel with an unidentified African American man during the groundbreaking ceremony for the California African American Museum in Los AngelesSeveral black female politicians appear in the Guy Crowder Collection whose careers were marked by many firsts. Two of those women, Yvonne Braithwaite Burke and Maxine Waters, have represented vast areas of Los Angeles during their long careers in public service, and many images of them are available online in the Tom and Ethel Bradley Center Digital Collections.

Yvonne Braithwaite Burke was the first African-American woman elected to the California State Assembly, serving from 1967 to 1973. She was the first African-American woman elected to U.S. House of Representatives from the American West, serving from 1973 to 1979, and the first member of Congress to give birth while in office. She was the first African-American vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, and the first woman to head the Congressional Black Caucus. 

Born in L.A. in 1932, Burke attended Dorsey High School, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and received her JD from the University of Southern California (USC) Law School. Early on as a public defender, she co-organized the legal defense for those charged during the 1965 Watts Rebellion and the governor selected her to the McCone Commission, which studied the conditions that led to the unrest. Burke returned to California in 1978 to serve as the first African-American member on the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors. After failed bids for reelection and for 1980 State Attorney General, she continued serving L.A. in several capacities, such as Chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors and assisting with the opening of California African American Museum’s permanent location in Exposition Park. In 1992, she was elected again to the Board of Supervisors after campaigning at such places as the West Angeles Church of God in Christ and during the Kingdom Day Parade. She remained in office until 2008. For over 40 years, she has sought to improve the quality of life for children, BIPOC, women, and the poor, and to improve public transportation. She is now on the Amtrak Board of Directors and the California Transportation Commission. Images of Burke in the Crowder collection attest to her political and social activities at local ceremonies, press conferences, and campaigning events with other political luminaries from 1969 to 1997. 

Congresswoman Maxine Waters talks with Senator Edward Kennedy (left) and LA Sentinel editor Jim Cleaver and others during a special event in Los Angeles. Digital ID: 91.01.GC.P.B1.31Maxine Waters has served sixteen terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to the present and she currently represents the 43rd Congressional District of California. She is the first woman and the first African-American chair of the House Financial Services Committee. She is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus, which she was chair of from 1997 to 1999. Born in 1938 in St. Louis, Missouri, she moved to L.A. in 1961 and graduated from Cal State L.A. with a BA in sociology. During her 14 years in the California State Assembly from 1976 to 1990, she ushered in significant legislation such as landmark affirmative action, the first state Child Abuse Prevention Training Program, and prohibition of police strip searches on nonviolent misdemeanors. After the 1992 L.A. Uprising, Waters captured the public’s attention by bringing high-level government officials to South Central L.A. to appeal for more resources. 

In the 1980s, she co-founded the Black Women’s Forum, a nonprofit organization for African-American women in L.A., and has formed strong ties within the Los Angeles African-American community through such activities as attending events for the Brotherhood Crusade, the NAACP, 100 Black Men, and the annual Black Family Reunion. As a prominent Democrat, she participated in five presidential campaigns, including Jesse Jackson’s in 1984 and Edward Kennedy’s in 1980, and is recognized as being an outspoken and bold politician in her advocacy. Over seventy digitized images of Waters in the collection attest to her community engagement with several organizations, cultural and political figures, and celebrities at local cultural and political events from 1973 to 1997. 

Other black female politicians found in the collection include Diane Watson, Teresa Hughes, Doris A. Davis, Pat Russell, Shirley Chisholm, Marguerite Archie-Hudson, Carol Moseley Braun, and Karen Bass. You can find images of these women by searching and browsing the Guy Crowder Collection in the Digital Collections

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke (left) and City Councilman Tom Bradley participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony in a shopping center parking lot five days before the run-off election for Los Angeles mayor against incumbent Sam Yorty. Yorty won the election. 1969. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N120.B6.S7.31.56.12
Senator Allan Cranston, Congresswoman Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, and an unidentified woman pose for a group portrait at an outdoor event. 1973. Digital ID: 91.01.GC.P.B1.24
(Left to right) L.A. County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Museum Director Aurelia Brooks, an unidentified man, Senator Bill Green, and Assemblywoman Teresa P. Hughes pose for a group portrait while holding a pair of giant scissors during the ribbon cutting ceremony for the California African American Museum (CAAM). 1984. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B2.17.29.07.1
Yvonne Braithwaite Burke stands with an unidentified woman and a young man holding a sign reading "The Black Political Library presents Supervisor Burke with a hearty thank you." 1985. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B6.10.28.03A
Yvonne Brathwaite Burke waving from a limousine convertible decorated with posters from her campaign for Los Angeles County Supervisor in the Kingdom Day parade. A woman on a tricycle follows the limousine as the parade route passes Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. 1992. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B5.47.158.10A
Group photograph of Yvonne Brathwaite Burke in a courtyard of the North Campus, West Angeles Church of God in Christ with a crowd holding signs reading, "Continuing to fight. Yvonne Brathwaite Burke for Supervisor." 1992. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B5.46.146.27
Yvonne Brathwaite Burke shaking hands with people at the Kingdom Day parade. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B5.47.159.20
Yvonne Brathwaite Burke speaking at lectern. 1992. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B5.46.146.20
UN Ambassador Andrew Young (center) poses with other participants of the 4th annual Brotherhood Crusade tribute dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Pictured are (from left), California Assembly member, Maxine Waters; recording industry executive and community activist, Clarence Avant; his wife and philanthropist, Jacqueline Avant; Andrew Young; Brotherhood Crusade Executive Director, Danny Bakewell; and C. Robert Kemp, Executive Director of the Interagency Minority Business Council, one of the dinner's honor
State Assembly member Maxine Waters stands at a lectern with an unidentified woman as she presents a framed copy of a resolution to a representative of the National Association of Media Women during their 18th annual convention hosted this year by the Beverly Hills/Hollywood Chapter. Ms. Waters was guest speaker during the President's luncheon. 1983. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B19.58.96.15
Honorees and guests of the Watts Branch NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet pose with Assemblywoman Maxine Waters at the Chester Washington Golf Club House in Los Angeles. Pictured are (from left), honoree, Sadie Robinson; honoree, Marcine B. Shaw; guest speaker, Maxine Waters; honoree, James H. Hawkins Sr.; Watts Branch NAACP member Elizabeth (Pat) Eastman, and an unidentified man. 1984. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B22.01.06.82A
Maxine Waters speaks at a lectern next to a panel of people seated at a table during a community meeting on jobs. 1984. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B11.10.13.35A
Producer, author, and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey (left) and Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (right) pose with civil rights activist Rosa Parks at a black tie event in her honor sponsored by the Black Women's forum at the Hollywood Palladium. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B19.28.55.13
Maxine Waters (2nd from left), Jesse Jackson (center) and Stevie Wonder (2nd from right) stand at a lectern with raised clasped hands between an unidentified man and woman during a Black Women's Forum event at the Ambassador Hotel. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B6.21.59.10A
State Assemblywoman Maxine Waters waves to spectators from the back of a convertible during the 16th annual South Central Easter Parade along Vernon and Central Avenues in Los Angeles. 1986. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B22.12.76.10A
Maxine Waters (right) and Willis Edwards (left) speak at press conference against racist comments made by Major Baseball League executive Al Campanis about African American baseball players during a live interview on ABC-TV's "Nightline." 1987. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B13.17.100.20
Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (left) poses in a kitchen with Jesse Jackson, and single mother Denise Calhoun during an overnight stay by Rev. Jackson at the Nickerson Gardens Housing Project in Los Angeles. Jackson later visited gang members to explore ways of avoiding gang violence. 1988. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B6.S7.42.77.04
Assemblywoman Maxine Waters speaks into a microphone at the Third Annual Western Regional Black Family Reunion in Los Angeles at Exposition Park. Actor and National Honorary Chairperson, Malcolm-Jamal Warner (left), Brotherhood Crusade President, Danny Bakewell (2nd from right) and civil rights leader and event founder, Dorothy Height look on. 1989. Digital ID: 11.06.GC.N35.B22.11.69.19A

Read more Peek in the Stacks blog entries