Stacey Abrams, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who just narrowly lost her bid for governor last year, is giving the official Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. The response is traditionally delivered by a member of Congress or a sitting governor, which makes Abrams an interesting choice to deliver the speech, given she doesn’t currently hold a political office.
The choice to have Abrams give the official Democratic response to the SOTUA has Democrats rooting for her to emphasize the stark differences between Republicans and Democrats, and also shows the party’s faith in Abrams, as well as a hopeful nod toward a more successful future in politics.
Abrams attributes much of her experiences growing up with her parents as a driving force behind her motivation to reform poverty, and to give “everyone the opportunity to succeed – not just survive,” despite having lost the race to become the first African American female governor.
Here’s what you need to know about Abrams’ mother and father, Carolyn and Robert Abrams:
1. Her Parents Raised Her & Her Siblings to Believe That They Would Be Successful if They Had a Good Work Ethic & Worked Hard
According to 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.
“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.”
2. Abrams’ Mother and Father Dedicated Their Lives to Serving Others and Insisted Abrams and her Siblings do the Same
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.”
3. Reverend Carolyn Abrams, Stacey’s Mother, is a Successful Reverend & Leader to the Church
According to Morning Star Baptist Church, Carolyn Abrams, Stacey’s mother, 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.
4. Carolyn Abrams Raised Nearly $100K for Hurricane Katrina Relief and Created Non-Profit Outreach Organizations to Aid her Community
As a Reverend, Carolyn created after school programs and summer camps for children in Stone County, as well as creating a 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.”
5. Growing up in Mississippi, Abrams’ Family was Considered “The Genteel Poor,” Relying on Books and PBS for Entertainment
According to The New Yorker, Abrams 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.