Who Is Stacey Abrams?
Politician, lawyer, author and activist Stacey Abrams served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2006-2017. She became the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly in 2010, occupying the role for her last seven years in office. Following an unsuccessful run for Georgia governor in 2018, she founded Fair Fight, an organization that helped register at least 800,000 new voters in Georgia ahead of the 2020 general election. In addition to her political career, she’s also published eight romantic suspense novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery.
Early Life and Education
Born on December 9, 1973, in Madison, Wisconsin, Stacey Yvonne Abrams is the second oldest of Carolyn and Robert Abrams’ six children: Andrea (born in 1970), Leslie (1974), Richard (1977), Walter (1979) and Jeanine (1982). Her parents — who met while working together as teen lifeguards at a racially segregated Hattiesburg, Mississippi swimming pool at the height of the civil rights movement — lived in Madison temporarily so that Carolyn could earn a master’s degree in library science from the University of Wisconsin. However, the couple raised Abrams in Gulfport, Mississippi, where she lived through middle school until the family, in 1989, moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where Carolyn and Robert attended Emory University to pursue graduate studies in divinity and become United Methodist ministers.
Abrams graduated as the first Black valedictorian from Avondale High School in DeKalb County, Georgia, before earning a magna cum laude undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies (political science, economics and sociology) with a minor in theater from Atlanta’s historically Black women’s college, Spelman. She later graduated from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin with a Master of Public Affairs in public policy and received her J.D. from Yale Law School.
At 17 years old, Abrams began her political career as a speechwriter when a congressional campaign committee became impressed with edits she made while typing for them. After Maynard Jackson — Atlanta's first Black mayor, with whom Abrams had challenged over issues relating to social justice during a televised 1992 town hall at Spelman — created an Office of Youth Services in 1993, he hired her as the only undergrad college student on staff.
Upon graduating with her Yale law degree, Abrams began working as a tax attorney at Atlanta’s Sutherland Asbill & Brennan law firm, where she focused on tax exemptions, healthcare, and public finance. By the time Abrams turned 29, Mayor Shirley Franklin appointed her as Atlanta's deputy city attorney.
Georgia House of Representatives
In 2006, Abrams was elected as a Georgia state representative, and within four years, she became the House Minority Leader. After ascending to the highest state legislative role in 2010, Abrams earned the distinction of becoming the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly, as well the first African American to lead in the House of Representatives.
During her 11 years in the Georgia House (seven as Democratic leader), Abrams served on the Appropriations, Ethics, Judiciary Non-Civil, Rules, and Ways & Means committees. As Georgia’s then-top-ranking Democrat, she traveled to and met with leaders in South Korea, Israel and Taiwan, and her international policy travel included Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.
Georgia Gubernatorial Run
After leaving her state representative position, Abrams launched a 2018 run for governor of Georgia, becoming the first Black woman to earn a major party’s gubernatorial nomination in the United States. Despite winning more votes than any Democratic candidate in the state’s history (including former President Barack Obama), she lost to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp by fewer than two percentage points and just over 50,000 votes of the more than four million cast.
The election eventually became a study in alleged voter suppression efforts. Aside from running in the race, Kemp’s office oversaw the election, cutting nearly 700,000 names from the rolls in the two years leading to the election, and more than 200 polling places were closed, primarily in poor and minority neighborhoods, according to The Washington Post. Abrams further claimed that thousands of ballots were left uncounted.
Ten days after the election, Abrams ended her bid for governor but chose not to concede to Kemp, citing her belief that voters were disenfranchised. “Let’s be clear: This is not a speech of concession," she said in a speech from her campaign headquarters, according to the Associated Press. “Because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that.” In the same address, Abrams also announced she intended to file a federal lawsuit to challenge the way Georgia’s elections are run.
Voter Registration Efforts
Following her election loss, Abrams, in 2018, founded Fair Fight, a voter protection and education organization, which aims to "promote fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourage voter participation in elections, and educate voters about elections and their voting rights.” Through her efforts, she helped register at least 800,000 new voters in Georgia ahead of the 2020 general election, per NPR, and as a result, Democrat Joe Biden won the state’s electoral votes for President in 2020. (Democrats Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Osoff also flipped Georgia’s two Republican-held Senate seats in a January 2021 special runoff race.)
Abrams had previously founded the New Georgia Project, which submitted more than 200,000 registrations from voters of color between 2014 and 2016. “I started my voting rights activism at Spelman College. I started a voter-registration drive even before I was old enough to vote,” she told students before an early February 2020 town hall meeting in Miami, per The Washington Post. “I was probably the only person who turned 18 in college and got excited to go register and nothing else. But for me, the issue of voter registration is the beginning of the conversation because it is a conversation about power.”
Abrams also helped create the Southern Economic Advancement Project (SEAP), which aims for equality of opportunity, and Fair Count, which seeks to get communities of color, rural populations and other marginalized groups counted in the 2020 Census.
Other Projects and Books
Abrams co-founded two businesses: Nourish, Inc., a bottled-water company with a focus on infants and toddlers, as well as NOW Account, a financial services firm that helps small businesses grow. The idea for the latter sprung from her experience with her beverage company, which couldn’t afford to wait for payment after filling orders, per Time.
Under the pen name Selena Montgomery, Abrams has written eight romantic suspense novels: Rules of Engagement, The Art of Desire, Power of Persuasion, Never Tell, Hidden Sins, Secrets and Lies, Reckless, and Deception. She’s also published her own political non-fiction books, 2019's Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change and 2020's Our Time Is Now.
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