Cynthia McKinney served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2003, and from 2005 to 2007, representing Georgia's 4th Congressional District. Cynthia made history when she won election in 1992 and became the first African American woman to represent Georgia in the U. S. House of Representatives.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Cynthia McKinney is the daughter of retired nurse, Leola McKinney and one of Atlanta's first Black law enforcement officers, former Georgia State Representative Billy McKinney.
Having strong academic achievement in Atlanta as a child, Cynthia went on to attend and study at the most prestigious academic institutions in the United States. She earned a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California, a Masters of Art in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and her mother keeps hoping that this is the year she will complete her Ph.D.
Cynthia's debut into public office came in 1988 when she was elected as a Democrat to the Georgia State Legislature. Shortly after her election to the Georgia State House, she joined with other civil rights leaders and filed a lawsuit that led to an increased number of black judges in Georgia. She also filed a lawsuit against Georgia's infamous second primary, instituted for the purpose of black disfranchisement. Later, she was a victim of the state's open primary, enacted for the same purpose.
During her service in the Georgia State House she took courageous stands. She immediately challenged House rules that required women to wear dresses by wearing slacks. In 1991, Cynthia spoke on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives against George Bush's bombing of Baghdad. Her colleagues walked out on her, prompting local and national press to compare her to former State Senator Julian Bond, current National Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), who was denied his seat in the Georgia State Senate because of his stand against the Vietnam War.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Cynthia continued the tradition of taking tough stands and fighting the good fight for justice and opportunity that she began during her tenure in the Georgia Legislature. She became known as the voice for the voiceless. She provided a seat at the table for people long left out of the political and economic mainstream.
After a redistricting battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court, Cynthia was forced out of the district that first elected her to Congress. She has not, however, broken ties with her first constituents. She brought hundreds of millions of dollars back to her constituents and fought so that underrepresented communities could finally have sensitive representation at all levels of government. Her pioneering work on behalf of black farmers led to the United States Department of Agriculture admitting that it had, indeed, discriminated against black farmers for decades.
From Community Oriented Police to sound barriers along the interstate, from clean fuel public buses to constituent services, communities today are still benefiting from Cynthia's Congressional work.
Cynthia succeeded Colorado's Pat Schroeder and California's Ron Dellums on the House Armed Services Committee, with both of them supporting her nomination to that Committee. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Cynthia passed legislation to extend health benefits for Vietnam War veterans still suffering the health effects from exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange. As reports now surface that our soldiers are returning from Iraq and testing positive for depleted uranium, it is important to note that Cynthia McKinney sponsored legislation to end the use of all depleted uranium weapons until their health effects are known.
Cynthia helped Department of Defense and Department of Energy workers who suffered exposure to nuclear material and she also spoke out for families that lived around these sites. Cynthia worked with the Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee to strengthen money in the budget for homeless veterans and to protect the Atlanta Regional Veterans Affairs Hospital located in the 4th District. Many overlooked veterans were able to get their medals because of the work Cynthia did this to make sure that all veterans were recognized for the sacrifices they made.
Cynthia voted against record Bush Administration Pentagon budgets and challenged the Pentagon to explain how it "lost" over $2.3 trillion in un-trackable transactions. She continues to decry the Pentagon's sweetheart deals with Halliburton, the Carlyle Group, and DynCorp and its successor companies. Cynthia speaks out against the loss of our fundamental freedoms during Bush Administration prosecution of the War on Terrorism and reminds Committee members of the well-known and documented abuses during the COINTELPRO era.
Cynthia also served on the House International Relations Committee for 10 years where she was the highest-ranking Democrat on the Human Rights Subcommittee. Cynthia made the time to help those in need who had a human rights claim. Cynthia felt that it was important that US policy reflect a deep respect for human rights. So she worked tirelessly on legislation to stop conventional weapons transfers to governments that are undemocratic or fail to respect human rights. Her legislation to end the mining of coltan in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo was mentioned in a United Nations special report. Almost single-handedly, she forced the United Nations to convene an independent commission on the Rwanda genocide and the role of the US and the UN in failing to stop Africa's most horrific genocide.
Cynthia hosted the first delegation of Afro-Latinos from Central and South America and pressured the World Bank and the U.S. State Department to recognize Afro-Latinos. She stood with Aboriginals against Australian mining companies; and with the U'wa people of Colombia in their fight to save their sacred land from oil rigs. She stood with poor Georgia farmers, black and white, against South African mining companies operating in the US.
During her tenure on the House International Relations Committee, Cynthia recognized others who championed peace and nominated President Jaochim Chissano, President of Mozambique, for the Nobel Peace Prize and he made it to the final group. She also nominated Juan Carreras for the same honor, for his work to bring peace to Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region of Africa.
Cynthia used her positions of influence on both the House Armed Services Committee and the House International Relations Committee to apply international human rights standards to US conduct at home and abroad. She held hearings on COINTELPRO: one on US Political Prisoners, the other on the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Cynthia also held Hip Hop Powershops featuring Kevin Powell, Afeni Shakur, Li'l Zane, and media executives.
Cynthia was tapped by the Congressional Black Caucus to lead its effort on the Durban World Conference Against Racism. With her leadership, the Congressional Black Caucus spoke on this United Nations effort and at this important event, never once compromising on the rights of all peoples to come together and express their pain and suffering and ways to end it. Cynthia was unwilling to be silenced in the face of injustice.
Despite all her efforts on behalf of the poor and dispossessed, in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and in the United States, Cynthia learned from news reports that AIPAC, The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, had targeted her for defeat. Cynthia never lost her courage and refused to compromise her strong American values. When Cynthia became one of the first Members of Congress to demand a thorough investigation into the events of September 11, 2001 and responsibly asked the question, "What did the Administration know and when did it know it about the events of September 11th?" she was vilified and targeted by Republicans. In 2002, she lost the primary election, in 2004 she managed to regain her seat, but in 2006 she again lost the primary election due to Republicans "crossing over" to vote in the Democratic Primary to oust Cynthia. This tactic is called "crossover" voting and her supporters have filed a lawsuit against this practise. Cynthia has been featured in a full-length documentary titled American Blackout that focuses on her electoral stuggles and the disenfranchisement of black voters.
During her tenure in the U.S. Congress, Cynthia won recognition as an outspoken leader for human rights, an ardent advocate for peace, and a determined worker for justice. She became a household name in Georgia and in many states across America, as well as in many countries around the globe. Cynthia was invited to Mumbai, India to speak at the World Social Forum and has spoken all over the United States and in Germany, France, Italy, Jamaica, and many places all over the world because she is nationally and internationally recognized for her tireless voice on behalf of justice.
If you would like to plan a speaking event with Cynthia, please email her at hq2600@gmail [dot] com or mckinney.cynthia [at] gmail.com