Politics Race

First Female African American Mayor Elected in Ferguson

On Tuesday night, Ella Jones, 65, was elected to serve as Ferguson, Missouri’s next mayor. A former city councilwoman, Jones will become the first African American and first female mayor in the city’s history. Jones received 54 percent of the vote, and her opponent, councilwoman Heather Robinett, lost by 138 votes. Jones will succeed James Knowles III as the city’s mayor.

In 2014, Ferguson received widespread attention when Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year old, was shot and killed by a white police officer. Brown’s murder was accompanied by a series of protests in Ferguson. These protests put a spotlight on the Black Lives Matter movement and raised conversations about systematic racism and oppression in America.

Jones has been a resident of Ferguson for 40 years. According to the City of Ferguson, in her capacity as a councilwoman, Jones has represented issue-areas including human rights, traffic, landmarks, senior citizens, and parks. Beyond serving as an elected official, Jones also founded the nonprofit organization Community Forward and Ferguson’s annual UNITY Weekend. Both are endeavors meant to support community development and provide services to families.

During her mayoral campaign, Jones prioritized issues including public safety, youth engagement, neighborhood stabilization, and community engagement. Particularly since the murder of Michael Brown, Jones has expressed criticism regarding the city’s law enforcement. In her campaign, Jones prioritized sustaining efforts to reform the police.

As she becomes the city’s first black female mayor, Jones has acknowledged the historic implications of her presence and victory as a candidate. On Tuesday night, Jones told reporters that her victory “means I’ve got work to do, because when you’re an African-American woman, they require more of you than they require of my counterpart.” When Jones unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2017, she also acknowledged the ways in which her race and gender presented challenges and shaped voters’ perceptions of her candidacy.

As the nation faces the COVID-19 pandemic as well as protests about police brutality against Black Americans, black female mayors of major American cities are receiving widespread recognition for their leadership. Jones’ victory coincides with national conversations about these events and leadership during times of crisis.

Sources: New York Times 6/3/20, 8/10/15; NPR, 6/3/20; City of Ferguson; Ella Jones for Mayor, 2019; Elle, 6/3/20; L.A. Times, 6/2/20