Balancing excellence with activism, Carolyn Booker arranged temporary housing for marchers during Dr. King’s 1968 March on Washington, talked books with James Baldwin, organized against redlining, and established a career as one of the first Black-woman executives at IBM. In her Las Vegas home, pictures of the men in her life grace walls, tables, bookshelves: her late husband, Cary, handsome features holding a wry humor; older son, Cary Jr., an assistant commissioner for Childhood Education for the State of New Jersey; and younger son, Cory, a seated U.S. senator and 2019 presidential candidate.  A graduate of Fisk, Ms. Booker’s parents were part of the Great Migration, leaving small towns in Iowa and Louisiana to head west for opportunity. As Mrs. Booker checks a full itinerary, consults with aides, and fields calls about her performance in a recent play, there is no doubt about from where the source of power in this family comes.


I look at myself, in a way, as being a recipient of what the struggle for Voting Rights and job opportunities was all about . . . One of the loveliest evenings that I spent after the March on Washington was when he (son of Secretary of State Dean Rusk) invited us over to his parents’ house to have dinner and we sat and talked about his work as Secretary of State and the issues of the March on Washington. . . just one of those seminal moments where you kind of feel like you’re sitting at the feet of history before it’s made. . . the door had been pushed a little wider open for all Americans and no one knew what this meant in terms of what would be next and where this would go from here. But new opportunities were definitely on the horizon. And how those would manifest themselves and what this next battlefront meant, in terms of accomplishments, would be so critical to our country. This step into the unknown, this leap of faith. . . And here I was.