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Mandela Barnes | Wisconsin Historical Society

Feature Story

Mandela Barnes

Celebrating Wisconsin Visionaries, Changemakers, and Storytellers

Mandela Barnes | Wisconsin Historical Society

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Wisconsin's First African American Lieutenant Governor

Changemaker | Mandela Barnes | 1986 - Present

Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes smiles proudly at the camera in this portrait in front of the Wisconsin & US Flags

Portrait of Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes - courtesy of his communication team

The son of a public school teacher and a United Auto Workers member, Mandela Barnes became Wisconsin’s first African American Lieutenant Governor on January 7, 2019. Barnes is a changemaker and a recognized leader on issues of economic justice, racial equity, and sustainability.

Barnes was born on December 1, 1986, in Milwaukee and graduated from John Marshall High School and Alabama A&M University. He credits his parents for inspiring his future in public service.

Barnes returned to Milwaukee after college in 2008 and worked in the mayor’s office before becoming a community organizer for Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope, an interfaith coalition that advocates for social justice.

In 2013, at just 25 years old, Barnes was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly to represent the 11th District. He served as the Chair of the Legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus and focused on progressive policies including gun violence prevention, juvenile justice reform, prison reform, investing in public schools, college affordability, and the decriminalization of marijuana.

Barnes ran, unsuccessfully, for State Senate in 2016, and then worked for the State Innovation Exchange, a nationwide progressive public policy organization.

In 2018, Barnes announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor, going on to win the primary election and became Tony Evers’ running mate. The pair won the 2018 election against Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch.

Barnes was named after South African president Nelson Mandela and like his namesake, is a fierce advocate for dismantling systemic racism and other barriers to prosperity for communities of color. He is a changemaker working tirelessly to ensure every child, person, and family has opportunities to thrive, regardless of zip code.

Sources: Mandela Barnes Website | Governor Evers Administration page on Mandela Barnes | CNN Article "Young, Black and in power: Wisconsin's lieutenant governor steps into national spotlight amid racial reckoning"

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