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Mfume, Kweisi (Frizzel Gray) (1948 - )

Image Courtesy of the U.S. House of
Representatives Photography Office
Kweisi Mfume was born as Frizzel Gray in Baltimore, Maryland on October 24, 1948, the eldest of four children.  Gray experienced a troubled childhood with the abandonment of his father and death of his mother as well as economic instability, but made a successful return to his academic studies in 1971.

Gray legally changed his name to Kweisi Mfume, “conquering son of kings”, in the early 1970s.  He obtained his GED, and began his studies at the Community College of Baltimore, where he served as the head of its Black Student Union and the editor of the school newspaper. He attended Morgan State University in Baltimore where he graduated magna cum laude in 1976 with a Bachelor of Urban Planning degree. Mfume then received an M.A. degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1984.

In 1979 Mfume was elected to the Baltimore City Council in 1979.  While on the city council, Mfume helped enact legislation which divested Baltimore of investments in companies doing business in South Africa.

In 1985 when Maryland’s Seventh Congressional District Representative Parren J. Mitchell announced his retirement from Congress, Kweisi Mfume ran for the seat the following year and was successful in both the primary and general election.  

Congressman Mfume served on the Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee and three of its subcommittees (Housing and Community Development, Economic Stabilization, and International Development); the Small Business Committee and two of its subcommittees (Minority Enterprise, and Exports, Tourism and Special Problems); and the Select Committee on Hunger. From 1987 to 1989 he was the treasurer of the Congressional Black Caucus and later served as its vice chairman.

Kweisi Mfume retired on February 15, 1996 and focused on his new position as chief executive office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  He held that position until 2004.

Sources:
Bruce A. Ragsdale, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington: U.S. Government) Printing Office, 1990); www.bioguide.congress.gov; M. Elizabeth Paterra, Kweisi Mfume: Congressman and NAACP Leader (Berkeley Heights, N.J: Enslow, 2001).

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University of Washington, Seattle

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