BEFORE FORTY FOUR: African American Presidential Ambitions Rooted in Georgia


Each year on George Washington's Birthday, the nation celebrates Presidents Day…a federal holiday held on the third Monday of February to honor the iconic presidents of the United States.

Barack Obama, the first African American nominated by a major political party, made history in 2008 when he became the first African-American to win the Presidency of the United States of America. In 2012, President Obama went on to win a second term in office. However, long before the rise of our 44th President, there were early trailblazers who launched their own historic campaigns for the Presidency.

This Presidents Week and in observance of Black History Month, Clark Atlanta University spotlights the Georgia-linked African-Americans who threw their hat into the national arena of Presidential Politics:



  • Clennon Washington King Jr.  (July 18, 1920 – February 12, 2000), Albany, GA

In 1960, King ran for President as candidate of the Independent Afro-American Party with Reginald Carter as his running mate, winning 1,485 votes in Alabama. King came in eleventh place of twelve candidates, well behind John F. Kennedy's 34,220,984 votes. His later attempts at civil rights actions and running for office as a perennial candidate caused him to be nicknamed "The Black Don Quixote."


  • Julian Bond (January 14, 1940-August 15, 2015) Atlanta, GA

Horace Julian Bond, politician and activist, a founder of Atlanta Student Movement, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), & Sothern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).  In 1968, Bond led a challenge delegation from Georgia to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where his name was put forth from the floor as a Vice-Presidential candidate. As the first African-American nominated for VP, he withdrew his name from the ballot because he was too young to serve at 28 years old. Bond would later run for the United States House of Representatives.



  • Cynthia McKinney (born March 17, 1955) Atlanta, GA

A politician and activist, who, as a member of the Democratic Party, served six terms in the United States House of Representatives. She was the first black woman elected to represent Georgia in the House. She left the Democratic Party and later appeared at the July 15, 2007, Green Party National Meeting in Reading, Pennsylvania, where she suggested that the Green Party could become a progressive political force. In 2008,  She ran as the presidential candidate of the Green Party of the United States



  • Jesse Louis Jackson Sr. (born October 8, 1941) 

Although not a native of Georgia, this American civil rights activistBaptist minister, and politician saw his presidential aspirations reach a new level of success in the Peach State. After becoming the second African American (after Shirley Chisholm) to mount a nationwide campaign for president in 1984, he sought the nomination again in 1988, where he delivered one of his most historic speeches at the National Democratic Convention. The speech is considered to be among the 50 greatest American speeches of the 20th century and capped a campaign primary season, where Jackson had captured 6.9 million votes and won 11 contests; seven primaries (Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and Virginia) and four caucuses (Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina and Vermont). Many of the gains made in this campaign are thought to have made the way for a successful Obama campaign and many others.