Cora Brown

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Cora Brown
Michigan State Senator
In office

Cora Mae Brown (born April 19, 1914 – December 17, 1972), was the first African-American woman elected to a state senate in the United States, winning a seat in the Michigan State Senate in 1952.[1]

Early life[edit]

She was Richard and Alice Brown's only child born in Bessemer, Alabama. At 8, she moved to Detroit, Michigan, with her family.[2] There, her father established a tailor shop.


In 1931, she graduated from Cass Technical High School and entered Fisk University,[2] a historically black college in Tennessee, where she studied sociology with renowned sociologist E. Franklin Frazierand received an A.B. degree.[1] She returned to Detroit to attend Wayne State University's law school while working with the Detroit Police Department from 1941 to 1946. She graduated from Wayne State in 1948, the same year that she passed the bar exam.


In 1950 and 1951, she ran for a seat on the Michigan State Senate but was defeated.

In 1952, she ran again, won, and served for two terms (1953-1956).[2] At the time, a Michigan State Senate term was about two years. She served as the state senator for the 2nd District during her first term and served for the 3rd District during her second term. Brown fought strongly for civil rights but clashed with some of her colleagues in the Democratic Party because she believed they were too heavily influenced by a federation of industrial unions, the Congress of Industrial Organizations. That made her switch to the Republican Party.

She supported Dwight Eisenhower when he ran for re-election as president. In 1956, she was a candidate in the Democratic Primary for US representative from Michigan's 1st District. In 1957, she was appointed as the special associate general counsel of the US Post Office, where she served the remainder of her working life.[2]

See also[edit]