15 Jan Just Barrier Breakers
Andrea Campbell stands on big shoulders. The newly elected Massachusetts attorney general (AG) has been hoisted up by two trailblazers who shattered barriers redefining the meaning of law and order.
Campbell, self-professed mentee of New York Attorney General Letitia James, brings to three the number of Black women who have occupied the vaunted position of their state’s top prosecutor. All of them have won statewide races, busting open the old boys’ club and advancing a progressive vision for American justice.
It began in 2010 when Vice President Kamala Harris was elected California AG, becoming the first Black woman in the nation to command that post. Her tenure was marked by aggressive consumer protection and launching the Division of Recidivism and Re-Entry. She also fought for stronger privacy protection against big tech and championed the ban on the gay and trans panic defense in court. After six years as AG in the nation’s most populous state, she would be catapulted to the U.S. Senate, her springboard to the vice presidency.
While capturing headlines for her take down of former Governor Andrew Cuomo and the ongoing barrage of civil actions against Donald Trump, native New Yorker Letitia James spent her entire career advocating for the least of these. From the public defender’s office to the New York City Council to her current office that she first won in 2018, James is unyielding in her prosecution of the gun lobby, Big Pharma, drug lords, and corporate cheats. She says her mandate is to protect the most vulnerable and stand up against anyone who believes they’re above the law – whether mob boss, governor or president.
One of the youngest AG’s in the nation, the path for Campbell, 40, was littered with both pitfalls and opportunities. At eight-months her mother was killed in a car accident while traveling to visit her incarcerated husband. Both Campbell’s brothers were snagged in the criminal legal system which claimed the life of her twin brother who died in police custody while awaiting trial.
She was elected to the Boston City Council in 2016 and served as council president from 2018-2020. She scored a resounding legislative victory as chief sponsor of the Community Preservation Act which generates over $20 million annually for affordable housing. She also championed mandatory police body cameras and the creation of a civilian review board to investigate police misconduct.
Like the two AGs who preceded her, Campbell is always fighting for a seat at the table.
“Representation matters,” she insists. “I know what it means for every little girl or anyone who feels left out and left behind.”