Carol Moseley Braun Collection

By: Katie Obriot (BMRC Processing Intern)

My first task with the Carol Moseley Braun Collection was to process the Scheduling series that consisted of about 100 Paige boxes mostly containing invitations received by the former senator.  Thumbing through the endless requests for meetings, speeches, and her presence at events from film screenings to galas, it’s hard to believe that our elected officials get anything done. However, the next series entitled “Legislative Files” proves that Carol Moseley Braun did in fact do an astonishing amount of work in the Senate. From the censorship of Gangsta Rap, to the flood of 1993, and Social Security, Carol Moseley Braun was on top of the current issues of her time as senator from 1993-1999. Notwithstanding, all of the information within these files fails to provide a full picture of Carol Moseley Braun. From her collection of Senatorial papers we know what amendments and bills she endorsed but we lack the knowledge of her history in politics and the stances she took in her life and in her campaign.

That said, one of our jobs as archives interns -or the job of any full-fledged archivist- is to research our subjects. Often, this requires scouring Newspaper archives or cracking open the Who’s Who. In the case of Carol Moseley Braun, I was lucky enough to find an article with Braun from the Chicago Reader written by Florence Hamlish Levinsohn in 1992; right in the middle of Braun’s campaign for Illinois State Senator. The article provides background information on the senator’s family life and personal views, themes that are absent from her senatorial papers.

Within the first paragraphs of the article we find out that Braun won several awards in her ten years as a state representative including the IVI-IPO's best legislator award (six times in a row) and awards from groups including: Chicago Board of Education, Chicago Firefighters Union, Illinois Association of Realtors, Illinois Council of Sheriffs, Illinois Women's Political Caucus,  and gay and lesbian organizations.

In the ‘60s Braun participated in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s open-housing marches in Chicago. in the ‘70s, While in law school at the University of Chicago Braun helped found the the Black Law Students Association. In 1983 Mayor Harold Washington made her his floor leader and in the late ‘80s, she adopted a code of ethics for the office of the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.

Carol Moseley Braun at Northern Illinois University’s

Center for Black Studies. April 12, 1996.

The article unveils Braun’s childhood and introduces us to her family. We learn that Braun was born in 1947 in the Southside of Chicago. Her mother was a medical technician and her father was a police officer and a jazz musician. Braun speaks about her experiences with segregation and racism in Chicago and describes her very own sit-in as a high school student in Evanston, "I sat down at the counter and the waitress walked all around me, serving other people, ignoring me. I sat there for about an hour. Finally she gave me a cup of coffee. I put my quarter down on the counter and I got up and left. I wouldn't drink their coffee but I wasn't going to move until I was served." Not long after that, she marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Gage Park.

In a transcribed phone interview at the end of the piece, Levinsohn asks Braun some probing questions about her campaign, her dealings as a state representative, and her position as head of the recorder’s office. Also discussed in the interview are Braun’s views on universal health care, abortion, taxes, education, and welfare.

I’ll stop here and encourage you all to read the article yourselves. I think it really adds context to Carol Moseley Braun’s Senatorial papers and may hold you over until we’re finished processing the 600 linear foot collection.

1996 Senate Committee Meeting on Africa

Photos are taken from the Carol Moseley Braun Collection.