Two African American firsts in politics

1989

David Dinkins, elected New York City’s first African American mayor

In New York, former Manhattan borough president David Dinkins, a Democrat, is elected New York City’s first African American mayor, while in Virginia, Lieutenant Governor Douglas Wilder, also a Democrat, becomes the first elected African American state governor in American history.

Although Wilder was the first African American to be popularly elected to the governor’s post, he was not the first African American to hold that office. That distinction goes to Pinkney Benton Stewart Pinchback, a Reconstruction-era lieutenant general of Louisiana who became Louisiana state governor in December 1872. Pinchback served as acting governor for five weeks while impeachment proceedings were in progress against Governor Henry Clay Warmoth.

Wilder served as Virginia governor until 1993, whereupon he was forced to step down because Virginia law prohibits governors from serving two terms in succession. In 1993, Dinkins was defeated in his bid to win a second mayoral term by Republican challenger Rudolph Giuliani.

Douglas Wilder, first elected African American state governor.
Douglas Wilder, first elected African American state governor.

– History.com Staff