The key paragraph that defines the arc of the book “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics” is in a vignette at its start set in July 26, 2016. It’s the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, and former president Bill Clinton is speaking about Hillary Clinton, his wife and their party’s nominee for president. And watching the scene are Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry and Minyon Moore.
“We sat facing him, on the convention dais. Who are we? We’re the Colored Girls, four African American women who had been a part of his political life since he first entered politics on a national level,” they write. “It was an unprecedented moment because we have, throughout our lives, been somewhat hidden figures in American politics.”
The latest episode of “Cape Up” is a conversation I had with the authors at Georgetown University and hosted by the university’s Institute of Politics and Public Service at the McCourt School of Public Policy, where I am a Spring 2019 fellow. Right off the bat, the question to them was simple: Why do you insist on calling yourselves “the Colored Girls”?
The story goes back to the 1988 presidential campaign. All four women worked on the presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson that year, but once then-Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis became the nominee, Brazile and Moore moved over to his campaign.
“There was a decision to move the leaders of the campaign to another floor, thereby leaving the rest of the campaign on another floor,” Brazile said. “We decided it was important that the campaign reflect the diversity of our country and we wanted to be part of that leadership and were part of that leadership by virtue of our status in the campaign.” So, she and Moore went up to the ninth floor, took over a conference room “where everyone could come and have a seat at the table” and they taped a handwritten sign to the door that read, “COLORED GIRLS ... WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED.”
Surely you know Brazile from television news shows. She managed Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign. She served twice as interim chair of the Democratic National Committee. Caraway was deputy chair of the DNC under chairman Paul Kirk. Daughtry was the CEO of the 2008 and 2016 DNC conventions. Moore served as assistant to the president and director of White House political affairs under President Bill Clinton. Those are just some of the important roles they served throughout their political careers. But they all cut their teeth on Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns.
Listen to the podcast to hear them talk about the event that initially sparked their interest in politics. Hear the advice they give to students who want to get into politics or how to navigate being a person of color in the world of work. And learn how the two Jackson campaigns trained the “Colored Girls” for the high-ranking jobs they went on to hold and how he changed American politics.
“[Jackson] took us into spaces we didn’t know existed,” Daughtry said. “By the end of his two campaigns for president, every major city in America had a black mayor on the strength of the people who were newly registered to vote in the Jackson campaign.”
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj. Subscribe to Cape Up, Jonathan Capehart’s weekly podcast