Here are some of the women Kamala Harris said helped pave the way for her

In particular, she praised some of the women who paved the way for her and helped secure the passage of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right vote.

“Without fanfare or recognition, they organized and testified and rallied and marched and fought — not just for their vote, but for a seat at the table,” she said. “These women and the generations that followed worked to make democracy and opportunity real in the lives of all of us who followed,” she said, adding that their efforts also paved the way for Hillary Clinton and the country’s first Black President, Barack Obama.

“These women inspired us to pick up the torch, and fight on … We’re not often taught their stories, but as Americans, we all stand on their shoulders.”

Here’s a closer look at some of those women.

Shyamala Gopalan Harris

As the daughter of two immigrants — Jamaican-born father Donald Harris and her late mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who was born in India — Kamala Harris spoke of how her parents marched together during the civil rights movement. Her mother is the daughter of an Indian diplomat and graduated from the University of Delhi at the age of 19 before coming to the US, where she earned her doctorate from University of California, Berkeley at 25.

Kamala Harris spoke about the moral values her mother instilled in her about family, public service and her Christian faith.

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“My mother instilled in my sister, Maya, and me the values that would chart the course of our lives,” Kamala Harris said, adding that she raised them to be “proud, strong Black women and she raised us to know and be proud of our Indian heritage.”

She said, “My mother taught me that service to others gives life purpose and meaning. And oh, how I wish she were here tonight, but I know she’s looking down on me from above.”

Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune chats with Vera Harrison of Wilberforce, Ohio, and Mary Bordeaux of Louisville, Kentucky, on January 1, 1942.
Born near Mayesville, South Carolina, on July 10, 1875, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was the daughter of former slaves. An educator, she opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in Florida in October 1904 with $1.50 and five students. The school merged with the Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida, in 1923 and after a series of mergers and other transformations, became what is known today as Bethune-Cookman University.
A leader of the civil rights movement, Bethune fought against segregation and pushed for voting rights. Her advocacy caught the attention of the White House and President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her his special adviser on minority affairs. In 1936, Roosevelt also appointed her director of the National Youth Administration’s Division of Negro Affairs, an extension of the New Deal program, created to help assist Black youth find educational resources and employment opportunities. Bethune became the first Black female administrator in the federal government at that time, according to the National Archives, and she was also appointed to commissions by Presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Harry Truman. She is an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., one of the oldest Black sororities, founded on January 13, 1913.

Constance Baker Motley

Constance Baker Motley speaks at a press conference at her office in New York City.
The first Black woman to serve as a federal judge and argue a case before the US Supreme Court, Constance Baker Motley was born in New Haven, Connecticut, on September 14, 1921. While in law school at Columbia University, she joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and was a clerk for Thurgood Marshall, the founder of the LDF, who became the first Black Supreme Court justice.
Known as a chief legal strategist of the civil rights movement, she argued 10 cases (winning nine of them) before the nation’s highest court and worked with Marshall on the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.
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Motley is a woman of many firsts like Harris: New York’s first Black state senator in 1964 and Manhattan Borough’s first Black and woman president in 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 nominated Motley to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, and she became the first Black female federal judge. President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidents Citizen Medal in 2001 and is also an honorary Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. sister of Harris.

Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer attends the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on August 22, 1964.

This civil rights icon, whose famous words “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired” is still a rallying cry for activists today, was born the daughter of sharecroppers in Montgomery County, Mississippi, on October 6, 1917. Fannie Lou Hamer pushed for voting rights and desegregation in the state, working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She was even fired by a plantation owner for trying to register to vote in 1962 and was also vocal about her experience of forced sterilization in which she was given a hysterectomy without her consent while in the hospital for a minor procedure.

In 1964, she helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, challenging the state’s all-white delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1964. There, she gave a fiery testimony to the Credentials Committee about the violence she faced from White supremacists, even recounting an incident in 1963 in which she and other activists were arrested and beaten by police officers. She is also an honorary member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Diane Nash

Musician and actor Harry Belafonte and Freedom Riders Diane Nash and Charles Jones discuss the movement on July 14, 1961.
Diane Nash, a civil rights activist, was born in Chicago on May 15, 1938. She fought for desegregation and was part of the Freedom Riders. She worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Mary Church Terrell

A portrait of Mary Church Terrell.

The daughter of former slaves, Mary Church Terrell pushed for women’s right to vote and racial equality and fought against segregation. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, on September 23, 1863, she is a founder of the NAACP and helped found the National Association of Colored Women. She is an honorary member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Shirley Chisholm

Rep. Shirley Chisholm announces her candidacy for the US presidential nomination alongside Reps. Charles Rangel, Parren Mitchell and Bella Abzug.
Born in Brooklyn on November 30, 1924, Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to Congress and first Black woman to run for president. Chisholm was elected as a representative from New York in 1968, serving until 1983, and was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971. Chisholm was also a founder of the Congressional Women’s Caucus in 1977. She, too, is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Barbara Jordan

Rep. Barbara Jordan, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, speaks during a hearing on the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.
Harris didn’t mention her by name, but both women made history at a Democratic National Convention. Born in Houston on February 21, 1936, Barbara Jordan was the first Black woman elected to the Texas Senate and in 1976, she became the first Black woman to deliver a speech at the Democratic National Convention. She served as a Texas representative from 1973 to 1979 and is also a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

She and Harris shared a similar message in their speeches, saying it takes all Americans to change the country. As the Democratic vice presidential nominee put it on Wednesday, “there is no vaccine for racism. We have got to do the work.”

Transcript: Kamala Harris' DNC speech

“We’ve got to do the work to fulfill that promise of equal justice under law. Because here’s the thing: none of us are free, until all of us are free.”

In 1976, Jordan spoke about the significance of her taking the stage and quoted former President Abraham Lincoln.

“Now I began this speech by commenting to you on the uniqueness of a Barbara Jordan making a keynote address. Well I am going to close my speech by quoting a Republican president and I ask you that as you listen to these words of Abraham Lincoln, relate them to the concept of a national community in which every last one of us participates:

“‘As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.'”

CNN’s Shawna Mizelle contributed to this report.


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