Listen to this article here
Despite being a solidly liberal, Democrat and Northern state, Rhode Island has never elected a Black person to U.S. Congress. That changed on Tuesday after Gabe Amo clinched the victory for the state’s 1st Congressional District.
“Undoubtedly, I’m humbled by the real momentous opportunity to serve as the first person of color,” Amo told The Associated Press after his win. “But I didn’t run to make history.”
In a night that saw strong gains for Democrats and progressive causes, Gabe Amo’s victory over Republican Gerry Leonard came after former Democratic Rep. David Cicilline stepped down this summer.
ABC News described the victory for Amo as a generational shift away from the traditional Italian American political hierarchy in Rhode Island.
“Just because my parents were born in two different West African countries, (it) doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit that narrative of how Rhode Island has been a haven for so many people from so many different places to thrive and build their families,” Amo said earlier this year.
Who is Gabe Amo?
At 35 years old, Gabe Amo boasts an impressive resumé. As the son of Ghanian and Liberian immigrants, he served in the White House under Obama and Biden.
Amo attended studies at Wheaton College and studied public policy at Oxford University, two of the most prestigious universities for future politicians.
Gabe Amo ran on a platform vowing to restore regular functioning of government, similar to how Biden vowed to return America to a sense of normalcy during his 2020 campaign. He also wants to address gun violence and protect Medicare and Social Security.
Meanwhile, his Republican opponent attacked Biden’s economic strategic, dubbed “Bidenomics”, as hurting the American people. His message failed to pierce voters’ ears in the safe Blue state.
“My opponent ran a great campaign. I called him early tonight and wished him the best. I hope he makes a great congressman,” Leonard told ABC News Tuesday night.
Notably, Gabe Amo’s victory marks the first time a Black person has been elected to Congress from Rhode Island since it became a state in 1790.
Rhode Island’s slavery history
As early as 1652, Rhode Island abolished African slavery on paper when it was still a colony. Yet, in practice, it had more enslaved people per capita than any other New England state, according to the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.
In fact, Rhode Island was considered one corner of the triangular slave trade.
“…slave-produced sugar and molasses from the Caribbean were carried to Rhode Island and made into rum. The rum was then carried to West Africa and exchanged for slaves, to produce more sugar, more rum, and more slaves.John Carter Brown Library, Brown University
Ultimately, Congressman Gabe Amo’s victory on Tuesday signals voters are moving in a new direction and away from Rhode Island’s racist roots.