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Cynthia McKinney was the first African American woman to represent Georgia in the House of Representatives and the Green Party presidential candidate in 2008.
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Politician. Born on March 17, 1955, in Atlanta, Georgia. An experienced state and national legislator, Cynthia McKinney is now seeking the highest elected office in the United States??the presidency. She is the Green Party candidate for the 2008 presidential election, following in the footsteps of earlier African American female politicians, such as Shirley Chisholm, who have also tried to win the top executive post.
Her father, Billy McKinney, was one of the first African American police officers in Atlanta. Her mother, Leola, worked as a nurse at one of the city??s hospitals for several decades. From an early age, McKinney was active in the civil rights movement, participating in sit-ins and demonstrations. After graduating from St. Joseph High School, she went to the University of Southern California. There McKinney earned a bachelor??s degree in international relations in 1978.
McKinney continued her studies at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. She earned a master??s degree from the program and then became a diplomatic fellow at Atlanta??s Spelman College in 1984.
In the mid-1980s, McKinney married Jamaican politician Coy Grandison. The couple had one child together, a son named Coy Jr., before divorcing. McKinney??s father submitted her name as a write-in candidate for the state legislature in Georgia in 1986. Despite the fact that she was still living in Jamaica at the time, McKinney was able to get more than 40 percent of the popular vote. She launched a campaign for that seat two years later and won a post in the state??s House of Representatives.
By this time, McKinney??s father was a well-established member of the House of Representatives in Georgia. The two became the first father-daughter team to serve in the legislature at the same time in the state. In 1992, Cynthia McKinney broke new ground on a national level. She became the first African American woman to represent Georgia in the House of Representatives.
Taking office in January 1993, McKinney led the Women??s Caucus Task Force on Children, Youth and Families and served on the Armed Forces and International Relations Committees. She showed an interest in foreign policy and was handpicked by President Bill Clinton to attend the presidential inauguration in Nigeria. McKinney was also involved in trying to open up diplomatic relations with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In addition to her support for many liberal causes and ideas, McKinney was also known around the capital for her braided hair and gold-colored tennis shoes. She faced a new political challenge in 1995 when the district she represented??the 11th??was redrawn after the Supreme Court ruled that its boundaries were unconstitutional.
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When the 19th Amendment was ratified, women were finally given the right to vote, and over the years many courageous women have stepped onto the national political stage as well. In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress and almost a century later Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina woman to serve on the Supreme Court. And within the last two decades, the esteemable Hillary Clinton has served as First Lady, a New York senator and Secretary of State. These women, and many more, are setting the stage for the future of female leaders in Washington.
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Visit Biography.com's Women's History group to explore more biographies, photos and videos of some the world's most fascinating women.
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