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The Honorable Carol Moseley Braun

Carol Moseley-Braun was born in Chicago to Edna, a medical technician, and Joseph Moseley, a Chicago police officer, in 1947. Her parents emphasized the importance of education and the necessity of hard work throughout Carol's childhood and she learned these lessons well. A self-motivated individual even as a youth, Carol Moseley-Braun worked in the post office and in grocery stores in order to finance her own education after high school. Her diligence earned her a law degree from the University of Chicago, which the ambitious young woman received with honors.

Carol Moseley-Braun worked for three years as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office. Her success as a prosecutor earned her the United States Attorney General's Special Achievement Award. Then, in 1978, Moseley-Braun was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, where she immediately earned a reputation as an uncompromising stateswoman. Her legislative legacy has been her ability to build coalitions comprised of people of all races who are committed to the same principles of efficient government. During her first election for State Representative, Carol Moseley-Braun pledged to make education her top priority. She was the chief sponsor of the 1985 Urban School Improvement Act, which created parents' councils at every school in Chicago. Other education legislation sponsored by Moseley-Braun included a 1980 bill that provided higher salaries for teachers and professors. After only two terms in the House, Carol Moseley-Braun was selected to become the first woman and the first African American in Illinois history to serve as Assistant Majority Leader.

As the late Mayor Harold Washington's legislative floor leader, Carol Moseley-Braun was the chief sponsor of bills to reform education and to ban discrimination in housing and private clubs. For each of her ten years in the legislature, Carol Moseley-Braun received the "Best Legislator" award given by the Independent Voters of Illinois - Independent Precinct Organization.

On November 3, 1993, Carol Moseley-Braun was elected to the United States Senate. Her victory represented the opening of a new world of opportunity to African Americans, as she was only the second African American elected to the U.S. Senate. Upon taking office, she was named to the Judiciary Committee; the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee; and the Small Business Committee. During her term, Carol Moseley-Braun was a strong champion of health care and education reform. In 1994, she authored the Educational Infrastructure Act, which was designed to channel education funds into the areas most needed by low-income communities.

Such measures emphasize Carol Moseley-Braun's tireless fight for the creation of social programs that directly address the needs of a district rather than those that merely promote a political agenda. In 1999, President Clinton appointed Carol Moseley-Braun United States Ambassador to New Zealand. Currently, Moseley-Braun teaches at DePaul University in Chicago and Morris Brown College in Atlanta, where she also serves as vice president of the consulting firm GoodWorks International.

Accession Number

A2002.024

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

3/19/2002

Last Name

Moseley Braun

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Henry Horner School

Martha M. Ruggles Elementary School

Paul Robeson High School

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

University of Chicago

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Archival Photo 2
Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Carol

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

MOS01

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $5,000 - $10,000

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

Tanqueray

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mountains

Favorite Quote

Do the best you can with what you have.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/16/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Greens (Collard)

Short Description

U.S. senator The Honorable Carol Moseley Braun (1947 - ) was the first African American woman to serve as a United States senator, and the first woman to serve as a senator from the State of Illinois. In 1999, President Clinton appointed Moseley Braun United States Ambassador to New Zealand.

Employment

Chicago Housing Authority

United States Attorney's Office, Chicago

Illinois House of Representatives

City of Chicago

United States Senate

United States Government

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Carol Moseley Braun interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Carol Moseley Braun recalls her mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Carol Moseley Braun remembers her father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Carol Moseley Braun shares memories from her early life in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Carol Moseley Braun details her family's diverse cultural pursuits

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Carol Moseley Braun describes her childhood personality and interests

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Carol Moseley Braun remembers an influential teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Carol Moseley Braun recalls attending Francis W. Parker Community Academy

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Carol Moseley Braun shares difficult chilhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Carol Moseley Braun recounts life after her parents' divorce

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Carol Moseley Braun describes her work with the Chicago Housing Authority

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Carol Moseley Braun recounts her political involvement in the 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Carol Moseley Braun explains her decision to attend law school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Carol Moseley Braun details her experiences at The University of Chicago Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Carol Moseley Braun recalls family opposition to her interracial marriage

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Carol Moseley Braun remembers her early legal career and marriage

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Carol Moseley Braun describes her work in the U.S. Attorney's office

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Carol Moseley Braun explains her decision to be a mother

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Carol Moseley Braun recounts running for state office

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Carol Moseley Braun details her tenure in the Illinois state legislature

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Carol Moseley Braun recalls her challenges in the Illinois general assembly

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Carol Moseley Braun explains her decision to leave the Illinois general assembly

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Carol Moseley Braun recounts running for lieutenant governor of Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Carol Moseley Braun remembers Cook county politics at Harold Washington's death

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Carol Moseley Braun recalls Eugene Sawyer's run for Chicago mayor

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Carol Moseley Braun remembers serving in the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Office

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Carol Moseley Braun reflects on the nomination of Clarence Thomas

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Carol Moseley Braun recalls the confirmation hearing for Clarence Thomas

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Carol Moseley Braun explains her decision to run for the Senate

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Carol Moseley Braun relates how her gender and background affected her approach to politics

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Carol Moseley Braun describes the first phase of her senate campaign

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Carol Moseley Braun remembers winning the senate primary

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Carol Moseley Braun outlines the benefit of her primary win for women candidates

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Carol Moseley Braun describes challeges faced in her primary campaign

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Carol Moseley Braun recalls her 1998 Senate loss

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Carol Moseley Braun remembers the opposition she faced while in the Senate

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Carol Moseley Braun reflects on the issue of the Confederate flag

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Carol Moseley Braun highlights her legislative record while in the U.S. Senate

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Carol Moseley Braun discusses her 1998 campaign for the Senate

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Carol Moseley Braun recounts leaving the Senate

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Carol Moseley Braun recounts challenges to becoming an ambassador to New Zealand

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Carpl Moseley Braun describes her experience in New Zealand

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Carol Moseley Braun reflects on her life since Congress

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Carol Moseley Braun discusses changes for her future and the country

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Carol Moseley Braun shares her hopes and concerns for black people

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Carol Moseley Braun talks about her son, Mathew Braun

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Carol Moseley Braun reflects on her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Carol Moseley Braun identifies favorite things

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

2$2

DATitle
Carol Moseley Braun explains her decision to run for the Senate
Carol Moseley Braun remembers the opposition she faced while in the Senate
Transcript
During that period, some people had started to say well you know, maybe you could think about just giving [Alan] Dixon a scare and saying you're gonna run against him if he votes for Clarence Thomas. I didn't, frankly, at that point, really take it all that seriously. It was just the thought that was kind of protest politics at that point. And then as Anita Hill's testimony went on, the women, as you know, became more and more enraged really about not just what had happened to her, not just the sexual harassment that she had experienced, but the fact that the members of the committee just didn't seem to get it that this was a major economic issue for women. And at the time, I remember having conversation after conversation that most professional women who have worked in the workplace had had some incident of sexual harassment. Everybody had a story of, you know, the boss who, you know, touched their breasts or their back or their legs or something, or who, you know, asked them out for dates or whatever. So this was something that resonated with women across the board. And the fact that there were no women in the Senate. Well, there were two at the time: we had Nancy Kassebaum on the Republican side, Barbara Mikulski on the Democratic side and that was really it. And so the fact that the Senate was 98 percent rich, white, and male, and that there was nobody reflecting the rest of America there who could even explain it to them, what was going on, really infuriated a lot of people. When the vote came, in spite of all the opportunities from the women in my state, Dixon voted to confirm Clarence Thomas. And it happened in kind of almost serendipity, again--. It happened that he did so on a Thursday, I think the vote was on a Thursday evening, we're checking this, either Thursday or Friday. But whatever happened, his office was closed for the next two days because of the hot weekend, and then there was the Columbus Day holiday. So he went either three or four days--I think it was either three or four days, it could have even been five, I think four is right--in which his phones weren't being answered at all. And you had women from all over Illinois calling to protest and their phone calls were not getting answered at all. So that just poured salt in the wound and exasperated the anger at the vote that he had made. And so at that point, I was still recorder of deeds and I got a letter from a man in Murphysboro, Illinois. I finally remembered the name of the town, Murphysboro. Murphysboro is down in far southern Illinois. And this person had apparently done some business with the Recorder of Deeds office. Remember, this was an office that before I got there, the term right before [Harry] Bus Yourell--. In fact, ten people who had worked in that office had gone to jail under federal indictments for taking bribes. So it was an office that had been rife with corruption, had been just a bureaucratic nightmare to get through. The employees were dispirited and disheartened. The public hated using it. It was just a bad situation. Anyway, so this guy wrote and he said, basically, "I've used your office many times over the years and I have to tell you I've never seen it work as nicely as it does now. The people are actually friendly and they are nice and they won't take tips and dat, dat, dat", he went on. And he says, "I think you should run for Senate." And so I really--. The letter became a real comment because it was like, wait a minute, I got people down in Murphysboro, Illinois, saying I should run for the Senate. There must be something to this. At the time there were two other women who were interested, kind of. Marge Benson, Marge Benton, who had been involved in Democratic Party politics, and who was a wealthy woman in her own right, Marge was flirting with it a little bit. And then Susan Getzendanner was flirting with it a little bit. But as it turned out, because I was a person already in an elective office, I had the constituency base from which to move immediately into a campaign. And so, even though, at the time, like I said, there was more protest politics than anything else, we started our little campaign and that was the beginning of it.$Well, understand, the things, my mother [Edna Davie Moseley] didn't happen until October.$$Yeah, it was right before the election.$$That was the October surprise in my election. And it was such an October surprise, I mean you're a lawyer, right? It was a situation in which I had no legal interest, culpability, or anything. It was like why are you talking to me about this? But that was a function of not fully appreciating the, what's the word I'm looking for? Not fully appreciating that so much of politics is about image as opposed to substance. And so it had nothing to do, really, with the substance of anything. My mother had not done anything wrong. I had not done anything wrong. But the images were painted around that situation that looked like she was a welfare cheat and I was trying to cover up for her or was part of causing her to be a welfare cheat. However it got spun, it was a very, very, negative kind of a thing. And that started in October. And when that started, it was funny, because I had a conversation at the time with my press guy. And he was saying, "Well, we've gotta respond to whatever it was," he said, "or were gonna look up and find the press will turn on us." And I said to him, "Don't you understand? They already have." I mean, it was almost a visceral type of thing. I could just sense that the press had ignored me in the primary, glorified me over the summer months--it was the campaign from, you know, Ms. Smith goes to Washington or whatever--and then when the October surprise came, then they proceeded to try to demonize. They got on that stick and they just wouldn't let up.$$And that continued even after you were elected?$$Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.$$So talk about that. There were the issues of going to Africa, you know, all those issues that came about and you said, "I would have looked at things different. I would look at things in terms of image." But I'm just wondering how you felt going into it. I mean, wondrous, incredible high, you know, the first black, female senator ever in the history of the United States.$$Right.$$But I'm just wondering what's happening in your mindset.$$I have a different mindset about it now than I had then, obviously. I guess in those days, I was always really perplexed and confused why I wasn't being treated like everybody else. You know, I mean, I was looking to be a legislator. And again, this is part of the pond lesson, you know, that having been a state legislator, and an effective one, etc., etc., I just knew that some of that good will, reputation, history, experience, whatever, would translate over. Number one, that there would be enough people on the national scene who would have some sense of what kind of a legislator, much less, what kind of a person I was from my Springfield days. Well, wrong. Absolute disconnect. I mean, I could have started off having been a cleaning lady. And, you know, cleaning lady, frankly, in part was some of the imagery that was out there. I mean, the stories about, you know, working single mom. When I first got in the Senate, the [Chicago] Tribune Magazine did a thing and I'm standing up in front of a desk. The picture on the front of the little magazine cover has me standing in front of a desk and I've got on a scarf. I think I may have been wearing the same suit, or close to it. But anyway, letters that came in later: Carol Moseley Braun, who does she think she is? She's standing there wearing an Armani scarf with a Waterford crystal biscuit jar on the desk behind her and I know how much those things cost. How can she afford that? So the notion was that I had come out of abject poverty or something, out of the bowels of the ghetto, and catapulted myself based on stolen campaign money into this position of prominence. I mean, all the negative images were set loose. And, again my state legislative work, all that time, all the effort, none of that mattered at all in that regard. In terms of what I would have done differently, again, it had to do with manipulating the images more than anything else. And I could not understand why I was looked at to be a symbol, why I was being looked at to be a role model, why I was being looked at to be, you know, Oprah goes to Washington. Oprah got mad at me for saying that, actually, but anyway, I shouldn't say it again. But, why those things were, those expectations were not being met when as far as I was concerned, I had been elected to be a legislator. And the whole idea was that I was gonna go Washington and I was gonna participate in the legislative process, and I was going to pass bills, and I was gonna initiate legislation, and that that was all that I would be required to do. And nothing could have been further from the truth.$$Now you said you did have your agenda. You got a plum assignment.$$Oh yeah.$$You got to talk about--.$$I got a plum assignment and I got more bills passed. I mean, I'm really proud of my legislative record. If anything, it does show that my priorities weren't too far off because I did what I set out to do as a legislator. But even the plum assignment--I was the first woman in history to get a permanent seat on the Senate Finance Committee--and if you read the clips from the Chicago papers they made it sound like some down and dirty, low-down, backroom Chicago smoke-filled room deal. I mean, literally. It kind of, you know, she manipulated her way with some backroom politics onto the Finance Committee. They couldn't even celebrate that. It was astonishing. So I found that even my victories were diminished, were not celebrated. And the things that were even marginally on the edge, a lot of--. For months they wrote that I had failed to show up for Senate orientation. There's a picture of me on the front page of the New York Times that says woman senator is at senator orientation. I was not only at senator orientation but I am on the front page above the fold in the New York Times and yet they kept saying that. I went to Africa, you mentioned that. Everybody else went on vacation. I had just had almost a year of campaigning. And so, when I went off after the election on the post-election two week holiday, which is kind of standard, you know, it was a big hairy deal in my case because I wasn't supposed to do that, I guess.$$I can say, I thought there was a difference in reporting, as time went on in Washington D.C. where you were, very well respected and in Chicago there was still a lot of mud-slinging.$$Well, it stayed that way. The Chicago press just stayed absolutely brutal. And, you know, maybe if I'd gotten reelected it would have changed. But whatever, that's just the way it was.