First Black Woman to Serve in Vermont Legislature Dead at 82

by Xara Aziz
Vermont Historical Society

Louvenia Dorsey Bright, the first Black woman to serve in the Vermont legislature has died, reports have confirmed. She was 82.

Bright died of natural causes in her home in Illinois, according to her son Bill Bright.

The longtime lawmaker began her career as a teacher before representing South Burlington in the Vermont House of Representatives from 1989 to 1994.

When Bright was first elected, she was only one of two Black lawmakers in the 180-member state legislature.  

“She was very aware of the fact that she was a pioneer,” her son told Seven Days. “She would never tell you that, but she understood that.” 

Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden-Southeast) added that Bright “paved the way with humility, grace and intention. Hers was a life of purpose, and I will always be grateful that she walked the halls of the Statehouse before me so I could feel a greater sense of belonging.”

Bright was not only a legislator, she was a devoted teacher, mother of two and advocate for racial equity, but working for the state of Vermont was one of her proudest achievements, Bill Bright said. 

“She loved it. She threw herself into it wholeheartedly,” he explained. “To me, it was probably the pinnacle of her professional life.” 

Before coming to Vermont, Bright lived in Detroit but moved when her husband, William Bright Sr. was hired to teach education at the University of Vermont. She would eventually teach business education and raise two children, Bill and his sister Rebecca. She has long been a staunch advocate for racial and gender equity, serving as a member of the Vermont State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Burlington NAACP

“She was actually more of an activist than a politician,” her son said. 

Two years before her passing, local NAACP chapters established the Bright Leadership Institute to train other Vermonters of color considering running for office. The initiative was done to honor her legacy.

Learn more about the program here.

Rest well, Louvenia Dorsey Bright.

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