BY CAITLIN O’KANE
Rev. Raphael Warnock meets with supporters on January 5, 2021 in Marietta, Georgia. MEGAN VARNER/GETTY IMAGES
Democrat Raphael Warnock is projected to win his Senate race in Georgia, making history as the state’s first Black senator. CBS News projected early on Wednesday that Warnock defeated incumbent Senator Kelly Loeffler in the Senate runoff election.
Only 10 African Americans have served in the U.S. Senate before Warnock. Republican Hiram Revels of Mississippi was the first African American senator, in 1870. Next was Republican Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi, who was born into slavery and began his term in the Senate in 1875.
Decades later, Republican Edward Brooke of Massachusetts was elected to the Senate in 1966, becoming the first African American popularly elected to the Senate.
Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL), Barack Obama (D-IL), who of course went on to become the nation’s first Black president, and Roland Burris (D-IL) followed. In 2013, Tim Scott (R-SC) became the first African American in the Senate since Reconstruction to represent a southern state.
William “Mo” Cowan (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), who went on to become the first Black, South Asian American and woman vice president, followed.
Warnock, who will be the 11th Black senator, is the first from Georgia and one of the only Black senators from a southern state. Exit polls show Warnock got strong support from Black voters and young voters. The 92% of the vote among Black voters is slightly higher than the 88% President-elect Joe Biden received in November.
“I’m just so very grateful to the people of Georgia,” Warnock said on “CBS This Morning” Wednesday. “They sent a strong and clear message last night when they sent a person who grew up in public housing, one of 12 children in my family, I’m the first college graduate. That I am serving in the United States Senate in a few days pushes against the grain of so many expectations. But this is America.”
While addressing supporters late Tuesday, Warnock said his election proved anything is possible. “We were told that we couldn’t win this election,” he said. “But tonight we proved with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible. May my story be an inspiration to some young person who is trying to grasp and grab hold of the American dream.”
Warnock, a reverend who grew up in Savannah, Georgia, became senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the former pulpit of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 2005, becoming the youngest pastor in that leadership role at the church.