Michigan House Democrats Celebrate Black History Month

Members of the 102nd Legislature reflect on achievements of Black legislators

Michigan House of Representatives Black Legislators 1895-2021

LANSING, Mich., Feb. 1, 2024 — Today is the first day of Black History Month, the celebration of the achievements and contributions of Blacks in America. Members of the Michigan House reflect on these achievements of African-Americans in the legislature, paying homage to the past, honoring the present and looking to the future. 

The 102nd legislative session has some notable firsts, including:

  • Speaker of the House Joe Tate (D-Detroit) is the first African-American to serve in this position. 
  • Rep. Kristian Grant (D-Grand Rapids) is the first African-American woman elected to the House out of West Michigan.
  • Rep. Donavan McKinney (D-Warren) is the first African-American man to be elected from Macomb County.
  • Rep. Kimberly Edwards (D-Detroit) is the first African-American woman elected to serve from Macomb County.

To begin the celebration, members of the House reflect on the significance of Black History Month: 

“I am deeply honored to serve as the first Black Speaker of the House. It has been a remarkable year of ground-breaking legislation signed into law that will benefit people and communities of color around the state. I am proud to be part of a legacy of strong, courageous Black legislators who’ve represented the voice of the people,” said Speaker of the House Joe Tate (D-Detroit). “As a Detroiter, I have a sense of pride in representing the people of Detroit, the city that elected the first Black man and woman to the Michigan House — William Webb Ferguson in 1892 and Charlene White in 1950. I stand in their rich legacy, making strides today for the generation coming behind me. I’m thankful for this moment in my life and for this honor adding to Michigan’s history.”

“Michigan’s Black history is rich with stories of leadership in championing democracy. From being a safe-haven stop along the underground railroad to Canada, to Detroit being the home of several historical figures in Black history — including Rosa Parks, the Rev. C.L. Franklin and Albert Cleage — Michigan is part of America’s story of civil rights and the fight for democracy. I’m proud to be one of the Black Legislators continuing the political legacy of our city and state,” said state Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit), chair of the Detroit Caucus. 

“Black History Month is important. Black people are important. Having Black representation in all facets of government is important. I say that to remind some young children today celebrating Black History Month at their school or their church or in the community that they can be right where I am one day. I also say that out of honor and respect for Black women in politics before me like Shirley Chisolm and Fannie Lou Hamer. Black History Month reminds me there is a seat because of women like them who stood up when they couldn’t sit down at the table,” said state Rep. Cynthia Neeley (D-Flint). 

“Black History Month includes the history-in-the-making of Black people, as well. As a first-term legislator and as the first Black woman elected to a state seat from Kent County, I’m only one of eight Black women currently serving in the House. The power of representation is real, and I’m humbled. This Black History Month, the point and the power of being represented, especially in government, hits home,” said state Rep. Kristian Grant (D-Grand Rapids). 

For more information about Black History in Michigan, visit Black History in MI and learn more about Black History in the Michigan Legislature from the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus