This Day in Black History: Nov. 7, 1989

L. Douglas Wilder becomes the first Black governor in the U.S. on Nov. 7, 1989.

Lawrence Douglas Wilder, born in 1931 and named after famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, made history when he was elected as the first Black governor in the U.S. on Nov. 7, 1989. Wilder was the governor of Virginia from 1990 until 1994.
Wilder, who is the grandson of a former slave, was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War, but learned that he would still be exposed to segregation and racism despite earning a Bronze Star for his heroism. He took advantage of the GI Bill to attend law school at Howard University (at the time, his home state of Virginia barred Blacks from attending its law schools).

After graduating, he created his law firm in Virginia and made his entry into politics with a successful run for Virginia state senator, serving five terms. In 1989, after a position as lieutenant governor, he made history as the first elected African-American governor in the U.S. He served for four years and after taking a 10-year hiatus, Wilder became mayor of the city of Richmond from 2005 to 2009.


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(Photo: Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

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