Date of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Type

Restricted to Claremont Colleges Dissertation

Degree Name

Political Science, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Melissa Rogers

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Linda Perkins

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Lorn Foster

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2023 Shawnika Johnson


African American women, Legislature, Political behavior, Social justice, Female legislators

Subject Categories

Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Women's Studies


African American women have been involved in American politics since the 19th century. However, their political contributions have often been in non-traditional political settings – religious groups, schools, and civil rights and social movements. In the 1960’s, African American women gained political agency and began to occupy mainstream political positions (i.e., mayor, assembly member, congresswoman, etc.). However, dismal research has been conducted on their multi-faceted political behavior, and on the salient policy issues authored by them. This mixed methods transdisciplinary research employs feminist qualitative research methods and political science quantitative methods to explore how the intersectionality of race, class, and gender influences the political behavior of African American female legislators in the Georgia General Assembly by measuring the types of bills they introduce/sponsor compared to their White female counterparts during three regular legislative sessions between 2017 and 2022. This research seeks to provide evidence for the Sustainable Justice by Experience Theory (SJET) which espouses that African American women legislate with a social justice mindset which is reflected in the types of public policies they sponsor/author. This research answers the following questions: 1) Are African American female legislators monolithic in their policy choices? 2) Do they introduce/sponsor more African American Interest, Minority Interest, and Social Justice Interest bills than their White Female counterparts? and 3) Do they introduce/sponsor more bills overall than their White female counterparts? This study finds that African American female legislators utilize their unique lived experiences to stand for social justice. As a result, they substantially author/sponsor more African American Interest, Minority Interest, Women’s Interest and Social Justice Interest bills than their White female counterparts, thus underscoring the importance of African American female representation in the Georgia State Legislature, and other political positions across the nation.



Available for download on Thursday, July 10, 2025