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The Honorable Dianne Wilkerson

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Information about The Honorable Dianne Wilkerson

Profile image of The Honorable Dianne Wilkerson

Profession

Category:
PoliticalMakers
Occupation(s):
State Senator

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Chicken (Roasted), Dressing
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
5/2/1955
Birth Location:
Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Profession

Category:
PoliticalMakers
Occupation(s):
State Senator

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Chicken (Roasted), Dressing
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
5/2/1955
Birth Location:
Pine Bluff
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Biography

Dianne Wilkerson, the first African American woman elected to the Massachusetts State Senate, was born on May 2, 1955, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. She was born in her maternal grandmother’s shotgun shack on a farm, because the local hospital did not allow black women entry to deliver children. Wilkerson and her family later followed an uncle who fled Arkansas to Springfield, Massachusetts, to escape harassment from the Ku Klux Klan. After graduating from Springfield’s High School of Commerce in 1973, Wilkerson attended the American International College, earning her B.S. degree in public administration in 1978. After completing her B.S., Wilkerson attended Boston College Law School, earning her J.D. in 1981.

Beginning her legal practice that same year, Wilkerson clerked in the Massachusetts Appeals Court until 1982, when she left to become deputy counsel to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. In 1983, she joined the law firm of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Lerby and McRae, where she remained until 1985. That year, Wilkerson became the assistant legal counsel to Governor Michael Dukakis. In 1987, Wilkerson became the first African American woman in Boston to become a partner in a major law firm, Roche, Carnes and DeGiacomo, where she practiced until being elected to the Massachusetts State Senate in 1992. In 2005, she was the highest-ranking black official in the State of Massachusetts, serving her sixth term representing the Second Suffolk District.

As a state senator, Wilkerson has sponsored a number of bills to protect low-income, black and other minority residents of Massachusetts, including a bill authorizing the collection of data relative to racial profiling in traffic stops and a bill to curb high interest rates on bank loans. As the lone African American in the Massachusetts State Senate at the time of her interview, Wilkerson has described herself as a “professional agitator,” and has championed policies to improve the lives of people underserved by the government.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dianne Wilkerson interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dianne Wilkerson talks about her grandparents and growing up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dianne Wilkerson recalls her grandfather
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dianne Wilkerson talks about her mother and her personality
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dianne Wilkerson talks briefly about her father and both her grandmothers
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dianne Wilkerson recalls the stories her parents shared about growing up in rural Arkansas
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dianne Wilkerson tells of her uncles who left Arkansas and shares a story of meeting one of them in 1979
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dianne Wilkerson describes her earliest memories and her uncles' trial, imprisonment and later departure from Arkansas
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dianne Wilkerson talks briefly about those who influenced her as a child
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dianne Wilkerson recalls the assassination of John F. Kennedy
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dianne Wilkerson talks about her attitude towards learning as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dianne Wilkerson describes her introduction to busing in elementary school in Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dianne Wilkerson talks about her experiences in an integrated elementary school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dianne Wilkerson recalls her neighborhood and her circle of friends during her teenage years
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dianne Wilkerson talks about her teachers and her experiences in junior high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dianne Wilkerson recalls summers visits with her grandparents down South
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dianne Wilkerson talks about her religious upbringing
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dianne Wilkerson describes early sights, smells and sounds from her childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dianne Wilkerson recalls her high school experiences
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Dianne Wilkerson describes her summer job she took to pay for college
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dianne Wilkerson recounts her high school struggle to attend college
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dianne Wilkerson describes her major and how she paid for college
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dianne Wilkerson recalls juggling her education with her new family
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dianne Wilkerson describes what made her decide to attend Boston College Law School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dianne Wilkerson describes her experiences at Boston College Law School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dianne Wilkerson talks about the culture shock she experienced in Boston
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dianne Wilkerson details how she passed the bar exam
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dianne Wilkerson talks about her first job assignments after passing the bar exam
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dianne Wilkerson details her activities in a New York law firm and with the NAACP
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dianne Wilkerson talks more about her activities with the NAACP and their lawsuit against HUD
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dianne Wilkerson describes her career achievement and details her decision to enter into politics
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dianne Wilkerson details her campaign for Senator of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dianne Wilkerson talks about her career accomplishments as Massachusetts State Senator
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dianne Wilkerson talks extensively about her position for gay marriage in Massachusetts
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dianne Wilkerson shares some of her advice to young people
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dianne Wilkerson talks about the committees on which she serves in the Massachusetts State Senate
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dianne Wilkerson talks about the change in racial demographics in her political district
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dianne Wilkerson reflects on how she has lived her life
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dianne Wilkerson talks about how she would like to be remembered and her future
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - Dianne Wilkerson's grandson, Cornell Devon Mills, Jr. and grand-nephew, Kendall, Boston, Massachusetts, 2002
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Dianne Wilkerson with Massachusetts State Senators Bill Owens and Royal Bolling, Sr., Boston, Massachusetts, 2000
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Dianne Wilkerson and an unidentified man present an award to Aaron Feuerstein, Boston, Massachusetts, 1999
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Dianne Wilkerson with former President Bill Clinton and others at a fundraiser, Washington, D.C., 2003
  • Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Dianne Wilkerson with the mayor and members of the Empowerment Zone Board, Boston, Massachusetts, ca. 1994
  • Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Dianne Wilkerson with other leaders at an NAACP function, Boston, Massachusetts, 1997
  • Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Dianne Wilkerson with others at a Massachusetts Legislative Black Caucus function, Boston, Massachusetts, 1996