* Former U.S. congresswoman representing Maryland
* Former Member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus
Donna F. Edwards was born on June 28, 1958 in Yancyville, North Carolina. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish at Wake Forest University in 1980, and a JD at the Franklin Pierce Law Center in 1989. After graduating from Wake Forest, Edwards worked variously as an assistant director in the United Nations Development Program (1980-82); a writer at the Lockheed Corporation (1982-86); a clerk for a District of Columbia Superior Court Judge (1989-90); executive director of the Center for a New Democracy (1994-96); executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (1996-99); and executive director of the Arca Foundation (2000-08).
Running as a Democrat, Edwards in 2006 made an unsuccessful run for a spot in the U.S. House of Representatives. In June 2008, she won a special election for Maryland’s 4th Congressional District seat, which was being vacated by the resigning Rep. Al Wynn. Soon thereafter, she became a member of both the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
For an overview Edwards’s congressional voting record and her positions on various issues of import, click here.
On December 22, 2009, Edwards was one of 33 U.S. Representatives who signed a letter to Hillary Clinton, urging the Secretary of State to pressure the Israeli government to end its ban on Palestinian student travel from Gaza to the West Bank. “We applaud your efforts to support educational opportunities for Palestinian youth, including your initiative to increase U.S. funding for Palestinian universities and educational programs in Gaza and the West Bank,” added the letter.
On January 27, 2010, Edwards was one of 54 Members of Congress who signed a letter calling on President Barack Obama to use diplomatic pressure to end Israel’s blockade of Gaza—a blockade whose purpose was to prevent Hamas terrorists from importing weaponry from places like Iran and Syria.
Over the years, Edwards has received several donations from high-ranking officials and/or board members of Islamist organizations. Specifically, from 2010-2016 she received a total of $6,099 in contributions from individuals affiliated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the SAAR Foundation (SAFA Trust Group), the International Institute of Islamic Thought, and the Muslim American Society.
In January 2015, Edwards objected strenuously when Republican House Speaker John Boehner—without first asking President Obama for his approval—invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress on March 3rd about the gravity of the growing Iranian nuclear threat and his strong opposition to the nuclear agreement that the Obama Administration was pursuing with Iran. Edwards was one of numerous CBC members who announced that because of Netanyahu’s act of “disrespect” against Obama, they would be boycotting the speech.
Edwards contends that the greenhouse gases emitted by human industrial activity are responsible for atmospheric changes that have given rise to a potentially catastrophic trend of global warming/climate change. At a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting in December 2012, the congresswoman stated: “The elephant in this room that needs to be spoken about is the impact of climate change and the increasing intensity of storms and the variedness of the storms … and I think that we need to be rebuild and rethink our infrastructure in those terms.”
Edwards was the Democratic comedy keynote speaker at the Washington Press Club Foundation’s annual dinner in February 2014. In the course of her remarks, she likened Republicans to monkeys with typewriters who incessantly type “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi”—a reference to the September 11, 2012 Islamic terrorist attack against a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans while the Obama Administration took no steps to intervene.
In the aftermath of an April 2015 incident where a black criminal suspect named Freddie Gray died while in the custody of Baltimore police, setting off days of violent riots throughout the city, Edwards blamed a combination of poor policing practices and an insufficient flow of government funds to black inner cities: “I would say there is over-policing going on, not just in Baltimore but really across this country, and it is something we have to evaluate as a matter of public policy.”
In the summer of 2015, Edwards supported the nuclear deal that the Obama administration negotiated with Iran—an agreement allowing the terrorist regime in Tehran to inspect its own Parchin nuclear weapons research site, conduct uranium enrichment, build advanced centrifuges, buy ballistic missiles, fund terrorism, and have a near-zero breakout time to a nuclear bomb. Edwards had previously received financial support from the Iran Lobby, i.e., the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC).
In 2016, Edwards challenged Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by the retiring Democrat Barbara Mikulski. Edwards lost the Democratic primary election for that Senate seat on April 26, 2016, and subsequently left public office when her term in the House of Representatives expired in January 2017.
In September 2017, Edwards reacted angrily when President Donald Trump publicly criticized National Football League players (like Colin Kaepernick) who chose not to stand during the national anthem at the start of their games. In response to Trump’s remarks, Edwards tweeted: “On Sunday, I hope every @NFL player takes a knee in solidarity w @Kaepernick7 against the white supremacist who squats in our White House.”
In a June 2020 interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid, Edwards was asked about the significance of President Donald Trump choosing to hold a political rally “a day after Juneteenth, so close to the Greenwood section [site of the 1921 Greenwood massacre] in Tulsa,” Oklahoma. The congresswoman replied:
“Well, you know, I think it’s not a secret what Donald Trump is both intending to say to black people but also what he’s really saying to his hardcore white supremacist base, and that is that he’s willing to sow chaos and destruction even as he’s running for president and in terms of race to win this election…. It strikes me that on this Juneteenth, of course, it’s not an accident that, one, he wanted to hold it on the 19th, but that he is so near the Greenwood massacre. He pretends not to know anything about this history, but he does. And what I would say is that I think he’s trying to sow chaos on the streets, and he wants the threat of that so that he can allow his Trumpian base to come out in the worst way. And so I get worried for us that we have a president of the United States who has no regard for human life, who has no regard for our history, and who is willing to go to the absolute lowest common denominator, not even a common one, in order to sow his political seeds and for his own political gain.”
Edwards once served as a volunteer for the activist group Public Citizen.
Further Reading: “Donna Edwards” (Votesmart.org, Ballotpedia.org); “58 Members of Congress Skipped Netanyahu’s Speech” (CNN, 3-3-2015); “Rep. Donna Edwards at Hearing on Hurricane Sandy: ‘The Elephant in This Room’ Is Climate Change” (CNS News, 12-4-2012); “The Most Painful Speech Ever [at Washington Press Club]” (Politico.com, 12-6-2014); “Donna Edwards: Too Much Policing Leads to Unrest” (Washington Times, 5-3-2015); “Dem Calls for All NFL Players to Kneel during National Anthem” (The Hill, 9-23-2017).