Barbara Lee was born in El Paso, Texas in 1946. Growing up in the segregated Southwest, Barbara learned at an early age the importance of standing up for one’s beliefs and of fighting for equality for all.
Barbara later moved to the San Francisco bay area so that she could attend Mills College in Oakland. During college, she quickly became a leader in the region’s vibrant civil rights movement—being elected president of the Black Student Union. Her commitment as a community activist led her to get involved in Representative Shirley Chisholm’s campaign for president, and then Congressman Ron Dellums’ office—a place she would spend the next decade of her life in service to her community.
Upon the retirement of Congressman Dellums in February 1998, Barbara Lee ran to succeed her former boss in the House of Representatives. In a special election held in April 1998, she won convincingly, receiving over 67% of the vote.
Congresswoman Lee has long advocated for legislative action to end poverty. In 2007, she worked with a diverse coalition of Members to create the Out of Poverty Caucus. In 2013, she became chair of the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality and Opportunity. As chair, she leads more than 100 Members of Congress in crafting and advancing legislation to lift millions of American families out of poverty and into the middle class.
In 2008, she was elected Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and also co-founded the Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus. Barbara is also a member and former Co-Chair of the Progressive Caucus, Co-chair on Steering and Policy Committee, and sits on the powerful Budget and Appropriations Committees.