“The security guard refused to allow us inside.”
A young Stacey Abrams had traveled with her parents on a city bus to the Georgia Governor’s Mansion so she could be honored along with the state’s other top students. It was a moment of immense pride for Abrams, the Avondale High School valedictorian, and for her parents, too, who had prioritized education for themselves and their six children despite their own poverty. But as the African-American family approached the tall black gates that day in 1991, they were stopped by the security guard.
“I distinctly remember him looking at the MARTA bus, looking at my parents and making a decision. The security guard refused to allow us inside. He said it was a private event,” Abrams recalls.
That situation was resolved with a check of the guest list; “Abrams” was the very first name, but it left its mark on the teenager. Abrams still doesn’t know if it was her race that caused disquiet, that she’d arrived on public transport or a mixture of the two. But she knows it fueled her drive, a drive that has now pushed her to be a leading Democratic candidate for Georgia governor.
“In front of the most powerful place in Georgia, telling me I don’t belong there, that’s resonated for me for the last 20 years. The reality is having a right to be places does not always mean that you’ll gain admission,” she says, with passion punctuating her words.
While women have not been literally shut out of governors’ mansions, 22 states have never had a female chief executive. They include states with massive populations like California, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. As reported by CNN the rise of women in politics since the election of Donald Trump, which has seen record numbers standing for election, is impacting the highest offices in states, too. A total of 46 women have filed to run in governors’ races this year, smashing the previous record of 34 candidates in 1994, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.