A Special Daily Resource Shared by Kerry Ruff
Friday, February 5th, 2021
Bonnie M. Waston Coleman was born on February 6, 1945 in Camden, New Jersey. Her father, John S. Watson would serve six terms in the New Jersey legislature. In 1970, Mr. John Watson became the first African American elected to the Board of Chosen Freeholders in Mercer County, New Jersey and in 1977, became the President of the Board. Bonnie M. Watson graduated from Ewing High School and received her Bachelors of Art from Thomas Edison State College. Bonnie established the first Office of Civil Rights, Contract Compliance and Affirmative Action in the New Jersey Department of Transportation in 1974 and remained the Director of that office for 6 years. Early in her career, she would work with the state of New Jersey and joined the Department of Community Affairs in 1980 serving as the Assistant Commissioner. She also served on the Governing Boards Association of State Colleges and was a member of the Ewing Township Planning Board. From 1998 to 2015, she would serve in the New Jersey General Assembly for the 15th Legislative District, which was the same district, her father represented. Mrs. Watson Coleman became the first African American woman to lead the State party when she was elected Chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee in 2002. She would stay in that role until 2006 when she would move to serve as the Majority Leader of the New Jersey General Assembly until 2010. In 2014, Bonnie Watson ran for New Jersey’s 12th congressional district seat and she won the Democratic primary and eventually won the general election in November. She won 60.9% of the vote and she resigned from her state legislature seat to begin her career in Congress. By winning, Mrs. Bonnie Watson Coleman became the first African American woman to be elected to represent New Jersey district in the United States House of Representatives. In 2015, Bonnie would work with fellow black representatives, Rep. Robin Kelly (Illinois) and Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (New York) to found the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls. “Black women and girls are disproportionately affected by myriad socioeconomic issues that diminish their quality of life and threaten the well-being of their families and communities. The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls gives black women a seat at the table for the crucial discussion on the policies that impact them while also providing a framework for creating opportunities and eliminating barriers to success for black women.” Bonnie would co-sponsor the International Megan’s Law, which combats child exploitation and other sex crimes abroad and President Barack Obama signed the bill into law in 2016. Mrs. Watson Coleman is a strong supporter of programs that allow criminal offenders to reenter society and when she was a New Jersey Assemblywoman, she sponsored a bill that bars companies with more than 15 employees from conducting criminal background checks on candidates during the interview process. Today we honor a Congresswoman who is only the first of many that will come to represent the African American community in the House of Representatives. Thank you. Happy Black History Month.