How Stacey Abrams Became One of the Most Inspirational Women in America

“Leadership is about answering that question: How can I help?”

That’s how Stacey Abrams summed up her worldview to The Washington Post back in May, revealing the internal inquiry that has driven much of her adult life.

It’s likely that, in the aftermath of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, you’ve heard Abrams’ name quite a bit. Maybe even for the first time ever. And for good reason. Her work fighting for voting rights in Georgia has been widely credited with playing a crucial part in the state, as the count currently stands, voting for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1992.

But while Abrams’ advocacy work in the Peach State has been largely tied to her defeat there in the 2018 gubernatorial race amid claims of voter suppression, it’s really part and parcel of a story that began long before then, well outside the world of politics. It’s the tale of a Black woman who has consistently dared to dream bigger than reality would seem to allow—both for herself and her country.

Election 2020: We Asked 100 Women Why They Vote

Abrams and her five brothers and sisters were raised in Gulfport, Miss., the children of a librarian mother and father who worked in a shipyard. The house she grew up in was situated in a neighborhood that gave her and her siblings access to one of the area’s better schools, giving her an early lesson on how to navigate America’s often lopsided racial division of resources.

As she told The Washington Post, “It was less a black community than we lived on a ‘black street.’ There were these two streets that were adjacent to the middle-class, predominantly white part of town to get zoned into the middle-class school…We lived on the two streets that were all black until the Brooks family came…All the streets got nicer names as you went further in, so those were predominantly white. My parents understood that education was the essential ingredient to success for both of them. My mom is the only one of her siblings to finish high school. My dad is the first man in his family to go to college.”

Stacey Abrams, The Hollywood Reporter’s Power 100 Women in Entertainment

An avid PBS viewer—it was one of only two channels the family received—Abrams was also a voracious reader, consuming just about any printed material she could get her young hands on. “I think my mom is the reason I started reading the encyclopedia and the dictionary, because I would ask questions and she was like, ‘Go look it up.'” she said. “Finally I figured if I wanted to know everything, I just needed to read everything.”

As she told Vogue in 2019, “They expected us to want more.”

And that meant seeing themselves as equals in a world that might not always agree. In fact, Abrams and her sisters credit their father as the first feminist they ever met, she told The Washington Post. “He

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Meet five women who helped get out the vote in Georgia with Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams lost the 2018 gubernatorial election in Georgia. But the first Black female major-party nominee in the United States was in it for more than an election. 

“We know that voter suppression has happened in every single election because it’s baked into the DNA of America,” Stacey Abrams told the Root

In 2018, photos, videos and stories of long lines that kept Georgia voters waiting throughout the night to cast their ballots brought national attention to the challenges influencing voter turnout. So after losing with more votes than any Democrat ever during a statewide election dogged by claims of voter suppression, Abrams kept working, founding Fair Fight and Fair Count. This year, a record number of Georgia voters turned out for early voting and many lawmakers have credited her efforts.  


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But many on social media were quick to point out that she wasn’t alone — including Abrams herself. 

 

While this list is far from exhaustive, these are the women Abrams shouted out and a few others you should know. You probably haven’t heard the last of them. 

Nse Ufot

Ufot is the CEO of the New Georgia Project, a non-partisan effort to register and civically engage the rising electorate in Georgia. The NGP registered more than 50,000 Georgians to vote this year, according to the organization’s website, and offered rides to the polls and other resources for voters. 

“We refused to let a global pandemic, civil unrest and several attempts at voter (and cultural) suppression stop us. But we turned our disappointment and frustration into power to push us through—to touch Georgians who needed to know their voices matter and that those voices need to be heard through their votes,” Nse said in a release.

Helen Butler

Helen Butler is the executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, an advocacy organization that has not only been active in election efforts but also the coronavirus response, acting as a lead partner for the CDC Flu Vaccination campaign.


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“Let’s not sugar-coat the situation: Our democracy is under attack. When President Trump disregards Congress’ oversight authority, our democracy is under attack. When state election officials suppress voter turnout in communities of color, our democracy

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How Stacey Abrams, LaTosha Brown and other Black women changed the course of the 2020 election

As the 2020 presidential election comes down to the wire, it’s clear that Black women continue to be the Democratic Party’s most powerful voting group.



a close up of a person wearing a costume: Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams waits to speak at a Democratic canvass kickoff as she campaigns for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at Bruce Trent Park on October 24, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.


© Provided by CNBC
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams waits to speak at a Democratic canvass kickoff as she campaigns for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at Bruce Trent Park on October 24, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Not only did 91% of Black women vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden according to NBC News exit poll results, but Black women have also been on the front lines of this year’s election, working to ensure that all eligible voters have their voices heard at the polls.

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In Georgia, Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor of the state in 2018, has been on the ground to ensure that voter suppression does not dictate the outcome of this year’s election. Two years ago, she lost the gubernatorial race by less than 55,000 votes to Georgia’s now-governor Republican Brian Kemp amid reports of voter suppression in the state. Between 2010 and 2018, it’s reported that Kemp, who served as Georgia’s secretary of state during that time, purged upwards of 1.4 million voters from the rolls, with many voter registrations being cancelled because a person did not vote in the previous election. Additionally, in 2018, 53,000 people had their registrations moved to “pending” because of the state’s “exact match” law, which requires handwritten voter registrations to be identical to an individual’s personal documents, The Atlantic reported. Of those 53,000, more than 80% of those registrations belonged to Black voters.



Stacey Abrams looking at the camera: Representative Stacey Abrams speaks onstage at the National Town Hall on the second day of the 48th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation on September 13, 2018 in Washington, DC.


© Provided by CNBC
Representative Stacey Abrams speaks onstage at the National Town Hall on the second day of the 48th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation on September 13, 2018 in Washington, DC.

In a 2019 Vogue profile titled, “Can Stacey Abrams Save American Democracy?” Abrams told the magazine that after her 2018 loss she “sat shiva for 10 days” and then she “started plotting.”

Part of that plotting consisted of her starting a voting rights organization called Fair Fight, which continued and expanded the work of the New Georgia Project she started at the end of 2013 that focused exclusively on increasing voter registration. This time, with Fair Fight, Abrams and her team focused on increasing voter participation, as well as education about elections and voter rights.

As a result of these efforts, it’s estimated that more than 800,000 new people have registered to vote in Georgia since 2018, with Abrams telling NPR that 45% of these new voters are under the age of 30 and 49% are people of color. In addition, Abrams tells NPR that she and her team were able to get rid of the “exact match” policy before the 2020 election.

Similar to Abrams, LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund which works to increase voter registration and turnout and expand voting rights policies, used an election loss to fuel her desire to create change. In 1998, Brown ran

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Meet the Women Behind the Popular “Vote” Masks Worn by Jill Biden, Stacey Abrams, and More

In 2018, almost two years after a reality TV star was sworn into office as the US president, Alexandra Posen finally started to see a silver lining. Formerly the creative director of her brother’s fashion label Zac Posen, she began to take notice of the news stories percolating about the number of women running for the midterm elections. Posen connected with her Washington DC-based friend Dahna Goldstein, an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of the grant asset management software company PhilanTech, and started to brainstorm. They landed on the idea of “a wearable piece of art that inspires activism” and launched it through an ecommerce platform they created called Resistance by Design.

The first item they released was a silk-chiffon scarf they called the “HERWAVE,” featuring an illustration by Posen of the 200 female democratic congressional candidates. “It really resonated with people,” Posen remembers. “I think you can write letters and you can make phone calls and you can go to marches but if you’re doing all of that, there is also often a real desperation for other ways to express your values. I think the scarf and the whole concept of Resistance by Design tapped into that.” 

The scarf started popping up on Posen’s social media feeds just after they launched the project. Female activists were gifting it to other female activists. Gloria Steinem purchased one, as did Jane Fonda. Proceeds of the sales went to various organizations including Emily’s List and She Should Run. As the project grew, Posen and Goldstein began to partner with grassroots organizations like Stacey Abrams’s Fair Fight,  NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Women’s March to produce merchandise like t-shirts and mugs. They operate with a revenue share model and recently launched a program called Mobilize Monday, through which they will donate $2,020 (chosen for the year 2020) to a different grassroots organization in a strategic state. There is also Flip It Friday, which encourages Resistance by Design fans and followers to donate to the campaign of a specific democratic Senate candidate. 

In the early days of the stay at home orders in New York, Posen began speaking to friends about what was then a mask frenzy: What are the right masks to buy? Are there enough masks and PPE for frontline workers and those with a higher risk of infection? What materials should the masks be made from? She sketched the mask that she knew she’d want to wear, one with the word “VOTE” stamped in a large font across the front. Then, she went to her closet, cut up an old cotton shirt and actually made her own mask with cut-out felt letters. She posted a photo of herself wearing it on Instagram and a flurry of DMs and inquiries came in. 

Resistance by Design produced a line of “VOTE” masks which have been seen on Abrams, Dr. Jill Biden, Hillary Clinton, Kerry Washington, Megan Rapinoe, and many more. “We’ve sold tens of thousands of these masks,” Posen says. “It certainly gives

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