One hundred and twenty years before Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States in 2008, Abolitionist Frederick Douglass received one roll call vote by a state representative after speaking at the 1888 Republican National Convention. This did not make Douglass a serious contender, but it serves as an incredible historical milestone.
In 1904 George Edwin Taylor would run unsuccessfully on the ticket of the National Negro Civil Liberty Party. It would take the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which allowed blacks to participate in politics and to run as major party presidential candidates, before the next landmark achievement would be made.
Shirley Chisholm became the first major party candidate for president on the Democratic ticket in 1972. She campaigned in 12 states and initially won 28 delegates. She would gain 124 more delegates from disaffected voters at the Democratic National Convention that same year for a total of 152.
When explaining why she was running, Chisholm said, “I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman, and I am equally proud of that … I am the candidate of the people of America.”
In 1984 and again in 1988, Democrat Jesse Jackson was the first major party black candidate to run a full-fledged national campaign. He earned 3 million votes and 7 million votes respectively.