‘I’ll never forget it:’ Mandela Barnes makes history as 1st lieutenant governor who’s African-American

Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes

MADISON -- History was made in the state of Wisconsin on the afternoon of Jan. 7. Mandela Barnes placed his hand on the Bible and was sworn in as the first lieutenant governor who is African-American to serve the state.

“I’ll never forget it -- standing in front of the state Capitol and the entire state to take the oath of office,” Barnes said on a cold February afternoon at his childhood church, Canaan Missionary Baptist.

The oath of office marked a monumental moment for Barnes, who entered politics not long after graduating college.

Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes

Marshall High School

“I wanted to be lieutenant governor because I felt that there was so much more that the state of Wisconsin can offer, especially as it related to opportunity,” Barnes said.

Barnes is a product of Milwaukee and the city’s public school system, graduating from Marshall High School in 2003.

“I used my experience at Marshall to form a lot of my decision-making, especially as I talk about education,” he said.

He said his roots give him a unique perspective in Madison.

Governor Tony Evers, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes

Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes

“So many people make decisions about the youth. So many people make decisions about the city of Milwaukee without having real-world experience of what is going on,” he said.

Barnes said his office is on a mission to move the state forward. He said he's focused on improving the gap in education, income inequality and the criminal justice system.

“We are going to continue to push forward with the issues that the people of Wisconsin support,” he said.

Barnes said his position as lieutenant governor is not about making history. He said he sees it more as an opportunity to make a difference.

“It's about the work that needs to be done. The rest we can worry about when I'm not in this position anymore. There is real work that has to be done," Barnes said.

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