Saturday, December 03, 2022
12/03/2022

The first vice president of color was a Republican elected over 90 years ago

Joe Biden's pledge to choose a woman as his running mate, and his consideration of several black female officeholders for the role, has spurred considerable chatter about diversity in the nation's second-highest office.

"Historic" is a term often associated search by Biden, himself a former vice president, after 36 years as a Delaware senator.

But the United States has already elected its first minority vice president, Republican Charles Curtis, who had significant Native American ancestry. Curtis was vice president under President Herbert Hoover for four years, much of it consumed by the nation's darkest economic times, the Great Depression. Curtis, Senate majority leader when tapped by Hoover for the Republican ticket, was also the first person with acknowledged non-European ancestry to reach the highest ranks of the federal government.

Born in the Kansas Territory in 1860, Curtis spent much of his formative years on an Indian reservation. His mother, Ellen Pappan Curtis, who shared Kansa, Osage, and Potawatomi heritage, died when he was 3 years old. He then moved in with his maternal grandmother on the Kaw Indian Reservation, where his first language was that of the tribe. He later learned English and French.
Charles Curtis, center, by Harris & Ewing, photographer is licensed under Public Domain
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