Leah Wright Rigueur is an assistant professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Her research interests include twentieth-century United States political and social history and modern African American history, with an emphasis on race, civil rights, social and political movements, political ideology, the American two-party system, and the presidency. She is the author of The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power (2015) which examines the ideas and actions of black Republican activists, officials, and politicians from the era of the New Deal to Ronald Reagan’s presidential ascent in 1980. Her work offers not only a new understanding of both the tumultuous relationship between African Americans and the Republican Party, but also provides important insights into black political opinions and behaviors and the transformation of modern political institutions throughout the twentieth century. Currently she is working on a project examining black appointees during the Reagan and Bush presidential administrations, with a focus on economic justice and social welfare policies; she is also working on a project examining the intersection of political and social movements and the 2016 presidential election.
This lecture will examine the role of black women in politics within the context of the 2016 presidential election. Specifically, it will examine the significance and historical emergence of black women as the “backbone” of the contemporary Democratic Party. Why are black women the most consistent and loyal voting group among the base of Democratic voters, and what does this mean for issues of race and gender in the present?