Former Legislative Black Caucus Members Detail Ed Markey’s Role in Helping to Establish Massachusetts’ First Black State Senate District
VIDEO: Former State Senator Bill Owens and Former State Representative Doris Bunte describe Ed Markey’s role in historic vote and endorse him for re-election to U.S. Senate
Saturday, July 25, 2020
BOSTON — Former Massachusetts State Senator Bill Owens and former Massachusetts State Representative Doris Bunte are featured in videos released today telling the story of Ed Markey’s work as a freshman state representative to create a new state senate district where a Black legislator could be elected.
Owens was the first Black state senator to serve in Massachusetts. Bunte was elected state representative in 1972, at the same time as Ed Markey.
Watch Senator Bill Owen’s video here.
Watch Representative Doris Bunte’s video here.
In both videos, the former legislators reflect on their time as freshmen lawmakers in the early 1970s serving alongside Ed Markey in the state legislature. The Black community in Boston was gerrymandered into five separate state senate districts, so Black representatives and white allies filed an amendment to create a new state senate district of majority Black communities. Despite pressure from state house leadership to vote against the amendment, then-Representative Markey joined to vote with the Black Caucus to create a majority-Black senate district where a Black legislator could be elected to the state senate and subsequently to sustain the veto of Republican Governor Frank Sargent.
“Ed decided that it was more important to do the right thing, and the right thing was to vote to give a Black person to run for the state senate and possibly win,” Owens added. “I thank each of you for going out to vote, for making sure that Ed can get in again, to make sure that a person who decides to do the right thing will be rewarded.”
“I’m happy to be supporting Ed, and I won’t ever forget that vote that he cast. It’s made us good friends,” said Bunte.
“It is truly an honor to have the endorsements of my friends and former legislative partners Senator Bill Owens and Representative Doris Bunte,” said Senator Ed Markey. “They showed me the importance of taking on the tough fights and of doing the right thing even when it’s unpopular with the bosses. The fights that Bill and Doris waged in the State House in the 1970s have laid a path for generations of Black leaders and have moved our Commonwealth and country toward progress. I am grateful to have their support for my re-election.”
In 1969, Doris was nominated to the Boston Housing Authority Board, making her the first public housing tenant to serve on the board. In 1973, she was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, becoming the first Black woman to serve in the Massachusetts legislature. While in office, Doris founded the Massachusetts Legislative Black Caucus and the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators. After spending 12 years as a representative, Doris left to become the director of the Boston Housing Authority, where she moved forward public housing integration.
Bill Owens served as Massachusetts’ first Black state senator. He served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1973 and 1974, and in the State Senate from 1975-1982 and from 1989 -1992. In 1989, Senator Owens introduced legislation in the Senate to provide reparations by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and was a fierce advocate against housing discrimination.
Ed Markey has served in the United States Senate since winning the special election in 2013 and has amassed a deep record on environmental, racial justice, gun safety, and consumer protection issues. He founded the Congressional Alzheimer’s Task Force and authored the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which mandates that the federal government put in place a plan to address Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. Raised in Malden, Ed Markey has always stood up for the priorities of Massachusetts.
Liz Vlock, Press Secretary