|President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People|
|Dennis Courtland Hayes|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Maryland's 7th district
January 3, 1987 - February 15, 1996
|Member of the Baltimore City Council|
Frizzell Gerald Gray
October 24, 1948
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
|Education||Community College of Baltimore County|
Morgan State University (BA)
Johns Hopkins University (MA)
Kweisi Mfume (born Frizzell Gerald Gray; October 24, 1948) is an American politician and the former President/CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as well as a five-term Democratic Congressman from Maryland's 7th congressional district, serving in the 100th through 104th Congress. On September 12, 2006, he lost a primary campaign for the United States Senate seat that was being vacated by Maryland U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes.
Mfume was born Frizzell Gerald Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, October 24, 1948, the eldest of four. His father, a truck driver, abandoned his family in Gray's youth. Upon the death of his mother, Mfume dropped out of high school at sixteen to begin working as many as three jobs at a time to support his three sisters. He also began hanging around street corners, sometimes with the wrong friends. In his biography, he reports that he "was locked up a couple of times on suspicion of theft because [he] happened to be black and happened to be young." Speculation as to the degree of his entanglement with the law has varied, especially as he later came into prominence. He became father to five children with several different women during his difficult teenage years, whom he actively supports (and who actively support him in his politics) to this day. He has since adopted one child as well.
At age 23, Gray returned to his studies and obtained his GED, going on to begin studies at The Community College of Baltimore County, where he served as the head of its Black Student Union and the editor of the school newspaper. He went on to attend Morgan State University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1976. He would go on to earn a Master of Liberal Arts degree in 1984 at Johns Hopkins University. In the early 1970s, to reflect his African heritage, he changed his name to Kweisi Mfume, comprising words of Akan and Swahili origin.
In 1978, Kweisi Mfume was elected to the Baltimore City Council, serving there until 1986. His political stance was against that of then-mayor William Donald Schaefer, who Mfume believed had ignored the many poor neighborhoods of the city. It was a contentious matter, but despite his strong opinions he learned the art of political compromise. He was perceived by many to have had some success during his stay in office, a fact perhaps reflected by his subsequent election to the United States House of Representatives in 1986 despite a torrent of criticism, directed in no small part against his early past.
Serving in Maryland's 7th Congressional district for five terms, Kweisi made himself known as a Democrat with an apparent balance between strong progressive ideologies and a capacity for practical compromise, representing a district that included both West Baltimore and suburban and rural communities, though his primary goal was an increase in federal aid to American inner cities. In his fourth term he was made chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
In February 1996, Mfume left the House to accept the presidency of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), stating that he could do more to improve American civil rights there than in the Congress. He reformed the association's finances to pay off its considerable debt while pursuing the cause of civil rights advancement for African Americans. Though many in Baltimore wanted Mfume to run for mayor in the 1999 election, Mfume stayed with the NAACP. Mfume served this position for nine years before stepping down in 2004 to pursue other interests.
On March 14, 2005, Mfume announced that he would seek the U.S. Senate seat of senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), following the announcement by Sarbanes that he would not run for re-election in 2006. Multiple candidates ran for the Democratic nomination. The Democratic primary for this seat was held on September 12, 2006, and Mfume lost the race to U.S. Congressman Ben Cardin.
In the wake of his primary defeat, Mfume was believed to be considering running for mayor of Baltimore in 2007, though he had not publicly expressed interest in such a run. On November 13, 2006, Mfume told a Baltimore-area radio station that "I don't have any plans to run for mayor. She [incoming mayor Sheila Dixon]'s worked for and deserves an opportunity to lead. ... I want her to succeed. I want the city to be united. I think at this point we owe her at least the opportunity to try to lead it." In late 2010, he was again rumored to be considering a run in the 2011 Baltimore mayoral election.
On May 9, 2013, Mfume was named chair of the board of regents of his alma mater, Morgan State University. He assumed the position of July 1, 2013, succeeding the universities' interim Chair Martin Resnick.
On November 4, 2019, Mfume announced his candidacy for the special election for his old congressional seat to fill the vacancy created by his successor's, Elijah Cummings, death less than three weeks prior. He also is running in the overlapping regular 2020 election for the same seat.
Many believed that the Bolton Hill resident was going to wait until former U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume decided whether to seek the office.
Baltimore's former congressman dominated the 2007 mayoral election into February--without so much as suggesting he wanted to run.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 7th congressional district
| Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus
Donald M. Payne
|Non-profit organization positions|
| President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Dennis Courtland Hayes