On Feburary 1, New Jersey senator Corey Booker became the latest Democrat to enter the race for the White House. Booker released a video announcing his presidential run, offering a message of national unity. “We are better when we help each other,” Booker says in the message. “I believe that we can build a country where no one is forgotten, no one is left behind; where parents can put food on the table; where there are good paying jobs with good benefits in every neighborhood; where our criminal justice system keeps us safe, instead of shuffling more children into cages and coffins; where we see the faces of our leaders on television and feel pride, not shame.”
Booker’s announcement also talked about his own childhood, and the great struggles that his parents faced as African Americans trying to create a better life for their family. Cory was born in 1969 has one sibling, an older brother named Cary. Here’s what you need to know about his parents, Cary and Carolyn Booker.
1. Cary & Carolyn Booker Faced Racial Discrimination & Even Violence When Trying to Buy a Home in New Jersey
Cary and Carolyn met in Washington, DC, where they were both working for IBM. They were among the first African American executives in the company. In 1969, when Cory was a baby, the couple moved to New Jersey in 1969 and started a family. They settled down in Harrington Park, New Jersey, which has been described as a wealthy and mostly white suburb near Newark. Cary later said was a “cheap” and affordable neighborhood at that time. After Cory was born, both of his parents remained with IBM; Cary got promoted to the New York office and Carolyn got a job in White Plains, N.Y.
It wasn’t easy for the Bookers to buy a home in the predominately white suburb of Harrington Park. “My mom would find a house in northern Bergen County; the realtors would see that it’s a black family and tell them that the house was sold,” Cory Booker later told reporters. “My parents ended up going to the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey.” He said the council would send out a white couple, who would pretend to be interested in the house. And then, on the day of the closing, the Bookers would show up instead of the white couple. Cory Booker said that, on the day of the closing, the real estate agent was so angry that he punched the Bookers’ lawyer and set a dog on his father, Cary.
Cory Booker later said that his father had taught him to be grateful for all the advantages that he grew up with. “He would say to me, ‘Boy, don’t you dare walk around this house like you hit a triple, when you were born on third base!’” Booker said during a speech at an event in Stanford.
2. Cary Booker Was Raised by a Single Mother in Henderson, North Carolina & Worked His Way Through College
Cary Booker grew up in Hendersonville, North Carolina. He was raised by a single mother and was close to his extended family. When he graduated from high school, the entire town of Hendersonville took up a collection so that Cary could afford to go to North Carolina college. His mother, her church, and her friends and neighbors all chipped in as much as they could to cover Cary’s tuition. Cary himself worked his way through college, working in construction and taking on dish washing and shoe shining jobs to help cover his tuition. He eventually became on of the first African Americans to be an executive at IBM, working in the company’s sales division.
3. Carolyn Booker Was a Schoolteacher Who Was Active in the Civil Rights Movement
Cory Booker’s mother, Carolyn, attended North Carolina State University. She became a school teacher but eventually went on to work for IBM’s department of human resources, where she became on of the first African American executives in the company. She met her husband, Cary, while they were both living in Washington DC and working for the company.
Both Carolyn and Cary were active in the Civil Rights movement. Cory has said that his mother spent her whole summer vacation helping to organize the March on Washington.
4. Cary & Carolyn Belonged to the African Methodist Church & Raised Their Children in a ‘Very Religious’ Home
Cory Booker has described going up in a “very religious” home, attending an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in New Jersey. Booker said the church was closely linked to the social justice movement. He told US News & World Report, “I was raised in a very religious home, with two parents who were deeply involved in the black church. When I was young I went to a small black AME church in New Jersey. The theology that was evident there helped frame this idea of social justice for me and this idea of a struggle. A lot of black church theology is about struggle—the fight for justice, for redemption, for contribution. The teachings of the home and the teachings of the church are the bedrock on which I stand.”
Cory Booker says that he remains a Christian and now belongs to a Baptist church. Jewish groups have also praised him for his knowledge of Judaism and his ability to quote Bible verses in Hebrew.
5. Cary Booker Died in 2013 After Suffering a Stroke
Cary Booker died in Las Vegas in 2013 after having a stroke. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was 76 years old. Cary died just a week before the Senate election which saw his son, Cory, win a seat in the US Senate.