Moseley Braun was the first African-American woman
elected to the US Senate -- in 1992 -- and the first female senator from her home state of Illinois.
"It was life-changing," she told CNN in a recent interview. "I wasn't setting out to be a 'first' anything. It was an accident of history."
was born in Chicago in 1947. As a teenager, she staged a sit-in
at a segregated restaurant and marched for civil rights with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
After obtaining her degree in political science at the University of Illinois and studied law at the University of Chicago, Moseley Braun worked in the US Attorney's office from 1973-1977. Putting her political science studies to work, the Democrat served in the Illinois House for a decade beginning in 1978.
Clarence Thomas' dramatic 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings
spurred Moseley Braun to train her sights on Washington. She was upset by Thomas' confirmation, and she was incensed by incumbent Sen. Alan Dixon's support for the justice during the campaign.
One of Moseley Braun's campaign slogans was: "We don't need another arrogant rich guy in the Senate."
Fifty-three percent of Illinois voters agreed with her, electing her to the US Senate
in 1992, the chamber's "Year of the Woman."
"I cannot escape the fact that I come to the Senate as a symbol of hope and change. Nor would I want to, because my presence in and of itself will change the US Senate," she said
at the time.
Moseley Braun also was the first woman to serve on the Finance Committee -- after Sen. Tom Daschle gave up his seat
-- and also served on the powerful Judiciary Committee, the same committee that Thomas appeared before during his Supreme Court confirmation.
She was not only a black woman in an "arrogant rich" man's world, but she was serving on some its most powerful public platforms.
"I didn't see the roadblocks as a function of being black or being a woman. I put one foot in front of the other," she told CNN. "I've always been comfortable with the skin I'm in."
But a shadow of campaign finance controversy
lingered over Moseley Braun's 1998 reelection campaign. While she was never punished for any finance discrepancies, a few percentage points-worth of doubt at the polls was enough to cost her the election.
After that, President Bill Clinton made her the ambassador to New Zealand
and Samoa, where she served from 1999 to 2001.
In December 2003, Moseley Braun announced that she was running for president
. Her campaign
was short-lived, and she dropped out of the race days before the Iowa caucuses, endorsing Howard Dean. She ran for mayor of Chicago in 2010, losing to Rahm Emanuel.
Taking a break from politics, she founded Good Food Organics in 2005. The company's Ambassador Organics
sells organic coffee, tea, olive oil and cocoa -- a sweet transition from a very public life as a political groundbreaker.