Today in 1955, Cynthia Ann McKinney was born in Atlanta, Georgia. By 1993, she was the first African-American woman to represent Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives (there have been only six women altogether). Importantly, McKinney has a legacy and a personal history of activism. Her dad was one of Atlanta’s first black cops in 1948, and she was receiving threats from the KKK by the time she was twenty-four. During protests supporting Tommy Lee Hines, a developmentally-disabled black man who was charged with (and later convicted of) rape in 1978, the KKK led counter-protests that turned violent. Shots were fired into a crowd of SCLC activists and other young advocates of Hines, wounding Klansmen and activists alike. Hines’ conviction was later overturned in 1980 and six KKK members were sent to jail in 1989 for violating the civil rights of protesters (not for shooting and wounding unarmed citizens), but McKinney claims she took away a new political ambition. It led her to the University of Southern California and Tufts, a brief teaching stint at Spelman, Agnes Scott, and Clark Atlanta, and then the Georgia legislature and Congress.
McKinney served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2007 (with a loss that kept her out of office from 2003 to 2007), representing Georgia’s 4th and 11th districts. By nearly all accounts, she is committed to progressive politics, civil rights, human rights, racial and gender equality, and international peace. But she’s also had a few dust-ups and controversies and appears to enjoy cracking open ALL of the conspiracies. During the 2000 presidential campaign, she wrote that Al Gore’s “Negro tolerance” was low. She’s written bills calling for investigations into the deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tupac Shakur. She suggested George W. Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, and she was a vocal critic of the 9/11 Commission. She claims to have met a National Guardsman who helped bury 5,000 unidentified bodies in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And, she beat up a Capitol Police officer who didn’t recognize her and tried to stop her.
Her post-congressional career has been spent Green Party-ing (she was their presidential candidate in 2008), participating in the Free Gaza Movement in a few harrowing humanitarian missions, and maintaining a powerful voice against U.S. military intervention, most recently in Libya and Syria.
There you go! Happy Birthday, Cynthia, er, Congresswoman McKinney!