Youngest ever African American elected official shares his story at Roanoke College


Photo by Shawn Nowlin
Bakari Sellers responding to a question about President Barack Obama.

In 2006, at just 22 years old, Bakari Sellers made history when he defeated 26-year incumbent State Representative Thomas Rhoad Jr. to become the youngest member of the South Carolina state legislature. Achieving that accomplishment cemented Sellers as the youngest African American elected official in United States history.

The first vice chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party visited Roanoke College on Monday, January 22, to share his story and talk about the current state of politics. Roanoke College senior Myles Cooper introduced the 2005 Morehouse College graduate.

For nearly two hours, Bakari discussed how he got to where he is today, pressing issues currently facing America and President Donald Trump. “We often get caught up in Dr. Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech,” he said. “We forget about the most important part in which he talks about the fierce urgency of now. See there is no more important time than this moment.”

Bakari also talked about serving on Barack Obama’s South Carolina steering committee during the 2008 election. “Something was happening to our world in 2006. People were running for the President of the United States, and I remember getting all of these phone calls. It would be Joe Biden one day, and Hillary Clinton the next,” he said. “All of these people would call me because they wanted my endorsement. I narrowed my choices down to two people: John Edwards and Barack Obama. Let’s just say I’m glad that I made the right choice.”

Another point that Bakari emphasized was accountability. “You don’t do what’s right for any other purpose to do it because it’s right. That’s one of our challenges in society today,” he said. “My grandmother is one of the most brilliant people that I’ve ever met. She always has this sage advice. One of the most amazing quotes she ever told me was ‘you can’t fall off the floor.’”

News of Bakari Sellers speaking at Roanoke College quickly spread over social media. “The first time I saw Bakari was a CNN clip of him destroying a Trump apologist,” Kevin Griffith said. “I really enjoyed hearing him speak in the Colket Center. He dropped a lot of gems.”

In addition to being a lawyer with the Strom Law Firm in Columbia, South Carolina, for the last 11 years, Sellers has served as a political commentator for CNN since 2015. He regularly appears on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, Anderson Cooper 360 and The Lead with Jake Tapper.

Attendee Marcus Jackson couldn’t have been more impressed with Bakari. The Roanoke County native said if he were to run for President, he would get his vote. “I just admire him as a father, a role model and community leader,” Jackson said. “I truly feel that one day he will be on the ballot box when people cast their votes.”

One could say that Bakari Sellers was born to make a difference in the world. His father, Cleveland Sellers, is a college professor and civil rights activist who gave his son the confidence that he can accomplish anything he wants in life with hard work.

“When I was 20 years old, I had just graduated from Morehouse. It was the summer before I started law school, and I had this master plan in my head. I told my parents that I was going to run for the South Carolina House of Representatives,” Bakari said. “They have been there for me every step of the way, and I look forward to making them even more proud in the future.”