Political scientist: Black women will play key role in 2020 election

Long a driving force in social and political movements, Black women will play a more visible role in the presidential election, says University of Florida political science professor Dr. Sharon Austin.

“Black women have always been active and influential in civil rights groups and movements, but they were largely excluded from leadership roles. Now they’re not just organizing, they’re leading as well,” she said.

Professor Sharon Austin stands in front of Walker Hall at UF

Dr. Sharon Austin

Austin points to the female founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, the diverse candidates who prevailed in the 2018 midterm election, and the upsurge in female African-American mayors — one of whom, Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, could rise to higher prominence in the upcoming election. With Democratic nominee Joe Biden committed to a female running mate, an African-American vice presidential candidate such as Bottoms could solidify his appeal to Black women. Austin also sees Rep. Val Demings and Sen. Kamala Harris as promising VP options.

“If he chooses the right Black female running mate, it could really motivate voters,” Austin said, pointing out that Black women vote at higher rates than other demographic groups. “Biden is going to have to understand that lot of African-Americans are not going to vote for him just because he’s a Democrat or because he served with the first Black president.” 

Like Black voters, women shouldn’t be seen as a monolith, Austin said. Partisan and ideological differences between Black and white women run deep, particularly in the South. Nearing the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, “Black and white women are experiencing the same divisions that existed in 1920 and during the height of the women's movement,” she said. “If we really expect to improve our plight as women, we need to mitigate those divisions.” 

Alisson Clark July 27, 2020