As a black man in Congress, I often think about the folks who broke down barriers enabling me to be where I am today. And this Black History Month, I want to showcase the achievements of a great Philadelphian, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander.
Born in 1898, Sadie Alexander knocked doors down to lead the way for African-Americans across the state:
- Sadie became the first black woman to graduate from Penn Law School and earned five degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in her lifetime.
- In 1927, she became the first black woman to gain admission to the Pennsylvania Bar, becoming the first black female lawyer in our state.
- When she earned her PhD in economics, she was the first black woman to do so in the entire country.
- Sadie also served the public as Philadelphia’s Assistant City Solicitor — a rare position for a woman at the time.
- Sadie was the first National President (1919-1923) of Delta Sigma Theta.
All of her accomplishments contributed to Sadie’s long career advocating for civil and human rights, eventually serving on President Truman’s civil rights commission. And it’s because of trailblazers like Sadie and others who paved the way, that I am able to represent the American people today.
Sadie once said “I never looked for anybody to hold the door open for me…I knew well that the only way I could get that door open was to knock it down.”
Listen, I embrace the paths of those who came before me, and aim to do so for younger generations to come. That’s why, as chairman of the appropriations committee of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, I secured $1 million in funding for the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Chair in Civil Rights at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
When we work together, we build a stronger tomorrow for each and every person in our communities. This month of remembrance is a time to celebrate the men and women who righted the wrongs of the past, but we must also look to how we can improve futures.
To make a difference is the reason I committed my life to being a public servant, and the reason I’ll keep fighting for you in Congress to this day.