Yvonne Burke was the first black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from California, serving from 1973-1978. The daughter of a janitor and a real estate agent, the Angeleno native was noted as exceptionally bright by her teachers and was sent to a “model” UCLA college prep school. The only African American student at the school, Yvonne was treated viciously by the other students, but didn’t let that stop her from turning in a stellar performance. Everywhere Yvonne went, she encountered more bigotry, including the women’s law sorority she was turned down by, compelling her to form an alternative women’s law sorority with two Jewish law students. Starting with her election in 1972, Yvonne Brathwaite’s career in Congress was equally outstanding; she was unfailingly supportive of the causes of desegregation, equal employment, and better housing. In ’78, she chose to run for California State Attorney General rather than seek reelection.
She currently practices law in Los Angeles. Yvonne is a visionary with the smarts and dignity to rise above the hatred she has personally experienced just for being black, saying, “It’s just a matter of time until we have a black governor and, yes, a black president.” With the election of Barack Obama, she was proven right.
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