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*Kweisi Mfume was born on this date in 1948. He is a Black politician, administrator, and activist.
Born Frizzell Gray in Silver Spring, MD, he is the eldest of four children. His father, a truck driver, abandoned his family when Mfume was very young. After the death of his mother when he was 16, Gray dropped out of high school to begin work, holding as many as three jobs at a time to support his three sisters.
He also began running the streets, sometimes with the wrong crowds. He became a father to five children with several different women during his teenage years. He actively supports them, and they, in turn, actively support him in his politics. He has since adopted one child as well.
When he was 23, Gray turned his life around. He obtained his GED and began studies at the Community College of Baltimore, where he served as the head of its Black Student Union and the editor of the school newspaper. In the early 1970s, in recognition of his heritage and his success over his beginnings, he legally changed his name to Kweisi Mfume, a name from the Akan and Swahili language that translates to "Conquering Son of Kings."
He went on to attend Morgan State University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1976. He attained an M.L.A. in Liberal Arts in 1984, concentrating on International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. During these years, Mfume also worked as a radio station volunteer and eventually as an announcer in Baltimore City.
From 1978 to 1986, Mfume served on the Baltimore City Council. During this time, despite his strong opinions, he learned the art of political compromise. In 1986, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives despite criticism against his past. While serving in Maryland's seventh district for five terms, Mfume made himself known as a Democrat with an apparent balance between strong progressive ideologies and a capacity for practical compromise. In his fourth term, he was made chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
In 1996, Mfume accepted the presidency of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He reformed the association's finances to pay off its considerable debt while pursuing the cause of civil rights advancement for Blacks.
Mfume is a member of the Prince Hall Freemasons and stepped down from the NAACP in 2004. In 2006, Mfume lost in the Maryland Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. In late 2010, he was again rumored to be considering a run in the Baltimore mayoral election in 2011. On July 1, 2013, Mfume was named Chairman of his alumnus, Morgan State University.
In 2020 he was elected to the Senate seat vacated by the death of Elijah Cummings
Black Americans In Congress 1870-1989.
Bruce A. Ragsdale & Joel D. Treese
U.S. Government Printing Office
Raymond W. Smock, historian and director 1990
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