More and more Black women are becoming mayors of large American cities. Tishaura Jones has become the latest in a string of recent women candidates advancing to the top of city leadership. With her win on April 6, Jones becomes the first-ever Black woman mayor of St. Louis.
Formerly the city’s treasurer, Jones previously ran for mayor of St. Louis in 2017 but lost in the Democratic primary by fewer than 900 votes.
Barbara Rodriguez of the nonprofit newsroom The 19th has reported that “during a speech Tuesday night after her runoff victory over Alderman Cara Spencer, Jones indicated her intention to address broad inequities as part of her vision for St. Louis.”
“I will not stay silent when I spot racism. I will not stay silent when I spot homophobia or transphobia. I will not stay silent when I spot xenophobia. I will not stay silent when I spot religious intolerance. I will not stay silent when I spot any injustice,” Jones said.
Saint Louis, thank you for saying yes.
Let’s get to work. pic.twitter.com/rYWc470Ioi
— Tishaura O. Jones (she/her) (@tishaura) April 7, 2021
According to Rodriguez, “Jones’s election is part of an unmistakable trend in American cities: In 2017, Keisha Lance Bottoms became the second Black woman elected mayor of Atlanta and Vi Alexander Lyles became the first Black woman elected mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2018, LaToya Cantrell became the first [Black] woman mayor of New Orleans and London Breed became the first Black woman mayor elected in the city of San Francisco. In 2019, Lori Lightfoot became the first Black woman mayor of Chicago.”
Currently, there are also Black women running for mayor in Boston and New York. Of the 100 largest cities in the U.S., 32 have women serving as mayors — seven of whom are Black women.
“We’re seeing a reshape of what executive leadership looks like,” said Kimberly Peeler-Allen, a visiting practitioner at the Center for American Women and Politics in an interview with The 19th. “Because we’ve seen Black women run and win in legislative bodies, but we have not seen them at the top of the ticket as the ones who are, ‘The buck stops here.’ We have not seen that in concentrated numbers prior to 2017. And I think that is really reshaping how Black women see themselves, and also how the electorate sees Black women’s leadership and the need for Black women’s leadership.”
Rodriguez also reported that Black women’s representation is increasing through all levels of city government, citing a study from the Reflective Democracy Campaign that found women of color have experienced significant increases in all levels of elected city positions since 2016.
“The phenomenon of Black women winning mayoral seats isn’t happening in a vacuum,” said Brenda Choresi Carter, director of Reflective Democracy Campaign. “There’s actually this real surge of Black women and women of color more broadly in city-level elected offices across the country.”
“People are really recognizing the value of having diverse voices around decision-making tables and the way that women, and particularly Black women, just lead differently,” added Peeler-Allen. “It is an opportunity to make sure that all people are included in the conversation.”
Maya Wiley, who is among the candidates running for mayor of New York City, agrees with that sentiment. “We have always been caregivers of our communities and we have always been looking for solutions for our community members,” Wiley said in a statement. “I think that’s why you see so many of us running now for executive positions because we want to manage the change we need to make.”