From pioneering democratic presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm to political powerhouse Stacey Abrams, Black women have historically been instrumental in shaping the landscape of politics. Rosa Franklin—a woman who broke racial and gender barriers in Washington state’s political sphere—is being celebrated by the city of Tacoma by having a park renamed in her honor, KING 5 News reported.
Franklin’s contributions will forever be embedded in the fabric of Washington’s history. The South Carolina native was the first Black woman to serve as a Washington state senator. The former nurse-turned-politician stepped into the realm of politics during the early 90s and has dedicated her career to advancing public service. In 1990, she was elected to the Washington State Legislature and was re-elected two years later. Two months after her reelection, the individual serving as State Senator of the 29th District passed away and she was appointed to replace him. After winning the election for the seat the following year, she had three consecutive reelections; serving in the role through 2010. Franklin’s work was rooted in addressing healthcare inequities, housing disparities and social injustice. She paved the way for other Black women who strived to use civic engagement as a means for evoking change in their communities and beyond.
Franklin, 94, was humbled by the honor and says she’s hopeful about the future. “I have great faith in the future because I look back at our history, and I know where we came from,” she said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “So without hope and faith, you’ll never make it.” Washington State Senator T’wina Nobles says Franklin’s journey served as inspiration for her to pursue a path in politics and exemplifies the power of representation. “It allowed me to not only be inspired by her story, it let me know that one day, I could be a state senator. Being a senator now, I know how complex the work is, so I have even more admiration for her because I know what it takes to exist in this space,” she said. The park was formerly named after Benjamin Franklin.
Public spaces throughout the country are being renamed to pay homage to Black women trailblazers. The city of Newark will honor abolitionist and activist Harriet Tubman by changing Washington Park’s name to Tubman Square and replacing a statue of Christopher Columbus with a monument that will be reflective of her journey and contributions.