Stacey Abrams will be giving the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s second State of the Union on Tuesday night. The 45-year-old Abrams is the former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives. She ran for governor in November and is considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2020.
Abrams attributes much of her background growing up as a driving force behind her motivation to reform Georgia’s issues with poverty, and to give “everyone the opportunity to succeed – not just survive.” She presents a different perspective from most of those who have given the Democratic response to the State of the Union in recent years and is the first black woman to do so. She will likely lean on her family background and experiences in her speech.
Abrams is one of five siblings and grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi, according to her campaign website. Her sister, Leslie Joyce Abrams, is a federal judge. Abrams is not married and does not have children.
Here’s what you need to know about Stacey Abrams’ family:
1. Abrams’ Mother & Father Dedicated Their Lives to Serving Others & Insisted Abrams & her Siblings Do the Same
According to Stacey Abrams’ official website, she and her five siblings grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi, with three tenets: go to school, go to church, and take care of each other. That was instilled in them by her parents, Carolyn Abrams and Robert Abrams.
“My parents grew up in poverty in southern Mississippi,” she shares. “The mantra was, if you get a good education and have a good work ethic, you’ll do well. We found that not to be true.”
Despite struggling to make ends meet for their family, her parents made service a way of life for their children. According to her website, “if someone was less fortunate, it was their job to serve that person. This ethic – and her parents’ unwavering commitment to providing educational opportunity for their children – led the family to Georgia.”
Abrams says that although her parents were well-educated, they still had to work hard to make ends meet. According to an interview with South Fulton Lifestyle, Abrams claims “the reality is that millions of families have that same challenge.” She continues: “For my parents, we ended up wallowing and almost bemoaning our faith. We realized that no matter how much we had, there was someone else who didn’t have it.”
Mr. and Mrs. Abrams were very adamant that their children played instrumental roles in improving the community. “Their commitment to assuring that we served people other than ourselves ran pretty deep. We may have found ourselves volunteering at a homeless shelter or working at Vacation Bible School to teach people to read. Our privilege was that we had two parents who loved us, and that privilege meant that we had an obligation to serve.”
2. Growing up in Mississippi, Abrams’ Family was Considered “The Genteel Poor,” Relying on Books and PBS for Entertainment
According to The New Yorker, she spent most of her childhood in Gulfport, Mississippi, where her family was part of what her mother called “the genteel poor,” which meant that “we had no money, but we watched PBS and read books,” Abrams said.
When the family struggled to pay bills, the water was often cut off. Her mother would try to make light of the situation and called it “urban camping.” Her mother was a school librarian and her father a shipyard worker before they moved the family to Atlanta.
According to the New Yorker, when the family moved to Atlanta, her parents became Methodist ministers—“thus guaranteeing that they would be permanently poor.” Stacey’s parents attended Emory University to pursue graduate studies in Divinity and become United Methodist ministers.
3. Her Mother Is a Retired Ordained Elder Known for Giving Back to the Community, Including Raising Nearly $100,000 for Hurricane Katrina Relief
According to Morning Star Baptist Church, Carolyn Abrams is the founding and former pastor of H.A. Brown Memorial United Methodist Church. She was appointed to the Wiggins Circuit in 1993, which included three churches: Andrew Chapel, Mount Zion and St. Paul. She eventually merged all three churches which became known as the H.A. Brown UMC. Abrams served the congregation for 15 years.
Carolyn Abrams was known as a very successful Reverend and leader to the church; under her leadership, H.A. Brown Memorial was selected as a Shalom Church for outstanding outreach ministry. The church also received both federal and private grants for outreach ministries and was selected to be part of the 2004 Leadership Plenty class for the Pew Partnership for Civil Change.
As a Reverend, Carolyn created after-school programs and summer camps for children in Stone County, as well as creating a nonprofit outreach organization that delivered relief services to the greater Stone County community.
“Following Hurricane Katrina, H.A. Brown and Faith in Community Ministries raised nearly $100,000 to serve displaced individuals and families in need of services,” according to Morning Star. “She served as a member of the Hurricane Katrina Long Term Recovery Committee for Stone County and the Stone County Ministerial Association.”
4. Abrams has Five Siblings, Including a United States District Judge and a Professor of Cultural Anthropology; She Says She and Her Siblings were ‘Saved by Public Education’
Abrams is a proud sister to five siblings whom she strongly believes were all “saved by the public education” system. Abrams and her younger siblings attended DeKalb County Schools, and she herself graduated from Avondale High School. Stacey received degrees from Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and Yale Law School, according to her website.
Her oldest sister, Dr. Andrea Abrams, is a professor of cultural anthropology. Andrea is the author of God and Blackness: Race, Gender and Identity in a Middle Class Afrocentric Church. Andrea has a B.A. in sociology and anthropology from Agnes Scott College. She earned a M.A. in anthropology, a graduate certificate in women’s studies, and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Emory University. Her research focuses on racial and gender issues in the South, according to the Centre College directory, where she currently works.
Leslie Abrams is a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia and former Assistant United States Attorney appointed by former President Obama. Her sister Dr. Jeanine Abrams is an evolutionary biologist at the Center for Disease Control.
She has two brothers: Walter and Richard Abrams, a social worker. Her niece Faith is in middle school.
5. She Has Experienced the Criminal Justice & Mental Health Systems Through Her Brother, Who She Says Is a Drug Addict With Bipolar Disorder Who Has Been In & Out of Jail
According to The New Yorker, Abrams describes her brother Walter Abrams as “a drug addict, who committed crimes to support his habit.”
“A few years ago, Walter, who has bipolar disorder, went to jail,” she said during a speech the author attended. “He got out and promptly relapsed, re-offended, and returned to jail. A week ago, he was released again.”
Abrams used his story as evidence of the need for criminal-justice reform, improved public education, and an expanded Medicaid. She also emphasized the need for better education to help understand mental illness.
“He still can’t get a job,” she said. “He still doesn’t have health insurance. And he still has to figure out where he’s gonna live.”