Listen to this article here
Jennifer McClellan made history Tuesday night after winning a special election for Virginia’s fourth congressional district. With her victory, McClellan became the first Black woman from the state ever elected to the US House of Representatives.
In a victory speech to supporters in Richmond, McClellan said she was ready to get to work. “We will make this commonwealth and this country a better place for everyone,” she said.
She said it was “a great honor” to be Virginia’s first Black woman elected to Congress. She also described it as a responsibility “to ensure I am not the last”.
McClellan, a long-serving senator in the state legislature, ran for Governor in 2021.
McClellan’s family faced discrimination from Jim Crow laws. Now, she’s making history.
During her campaign, she spoke with The Black Wall Street Times about the journey her family’s story took to get to that point.
Growing up in the segregated South, McClellan’s grandfather was forced to take two literacy tests to be able to register to vote in Virginia. After he passed the first test, the official reportedly required him to take a second. He then needed three White people to “vouch for him” for his registration to be approved.
Decades later, McClellan was looking through old family artifacts and found a receipt from 1947. It was her father’s poll tax receipt, a sign of the generational efforts to suppress her family’s rights to vote.
However, these efforts not only failed, they spurred McClellan on to take further action to protect the right to vote for others. As a result, she helped lead the charge to form and pass one of the most progressive voting rights acts in the South.
McClellan will assume the seat formerly held by Donald McEachin, who passed away from cancer last year.
With McClellan’s win, Virginia becomes the 23rd state to ever send a Black woman to serve in the US House.