List of African-American United States Cabinet Secretaries

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Colin Powell smiling with eye glasses wearing a dark suit jacket, white button-shirt with collar, and a solid burgundy tie.  The United States flag is in the background.
Condoleezza Rice smiling with thickly applied red lipstick wearing a dark blue jacket over a patterned blouse. The United States flag is in the background.
Colin Powell (left) and Condoleezza Rice (right) are the highest-ranking African Americans in the history of the Cabinet, having held the post of Secretary of State, the most senior cabinet position.

The United States Cabinet has had 20 African-American appointed officers. By definition, African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have origins in any of the black populations of Africa.[1] The term is generally used for Americans with at least partial Sub-Saharan African ancestry.[2] Originally, African Americans were regarded as second-class citizens or slaves in America.[3] No African American ever held a Cabinet position before the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and labor unions.[4]

Robert C. Weaver became the first African American to hold a Cabinet-level position when he was appointed United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.[5] In 1975, Secretary of Transportation William Thaddeus Coleman, Jr. became the first Republican African American appointed to the Cabinet.[6] Patricia Roberts Harris became the first African-American female cabinet member when she was appointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1977. In 1979, Harris became the first African American to be head of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which was split into the departments of Education and Health and Human Services in the same year.[7] Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice's appointments as Secretary of State made them the highest-ranking African Americans in the United States presidential line of succession.[8]

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has had the most African-American Secretaries, with four. The Department of Transportation has had three. The Departments of Health and Human Services, State, and Veterans Affairs have each had two. The Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Energy, and Education has each had one. The three existing departments of Defense, Interior, and Treasury have not had African-American Secretaries. President Bill Clinton has appointed the most African Americans to the Cabinet during his tenure, with seven.

African-American Secretaries[edit]

Current departments[edit]

Robert C. Weaver was the first African American to hold a Cabinet-level position.
Patricia Roberts Harris was the first African-American woman to serve in the Cabinet.

Numerical order represents the seniority of the Secretaries in the United States presidential line of succession.

 *  denotes the first African-American secretary of that particular department
# Secretary Position Year
appointed
Party Administration References
1 Powell, ColinColin Powell* Secretary of State 2001 Republican George W. Bush [8][9]
1 Rice, CondoleezzaCondoleezza Rice Secretary of State 2005 Republican George W. Bush [10]
2  — Secretary of the Treasury  — [a]  — [a]  — [a]  —
3  — Secretary of Defense  — [b]  — [b]  — [b]  —
4 Holder, EricEric Holder Attorney General (acting) 2001 Republican George W. Bush [11]
4 Holder, EricEric Holder* Attorney General 2009 Democratic Barack Obama [12]
5  — Secretary of the Interior  — [c]  — [c]  — [c]  —
6 Espy, MikeMike Espy* Secretary of Agriculture 1993 Democratic Bill Clinton [13]
7 Brown, RonRon Brown* Secretary of Commerce 1993 Democratic Bill Clinton [14]
8 Herman, AlexisAlexis Herman* Secretary of Labor 1997 Democratic Bill Clinton [15][16]
9 Roberts Harris, PatriciaPatricia Roberts Harris* Secretary of Health and Human Services 1979 Democratic Jimmy Carter [7][17]
9 Wade Sullivan, LouisLouis Wade Sullivan Secretary of Health and Human Services 1989 Republican George H. W. Bush [18]
10 Weaver, Robert C.Robert C. Weaver* Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 1966 Democratic Lyndon B. Johnson [5]
10 Harris, Patricia RobertsPatricia Roberts Harris Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 1977 Democratic Jimmy Carter [7][17]
10 Pierce, SamuelSamuel Pierce Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 1981 Republican Ronald Reagan [19][20][21]
10 Jackson, AlphonsoAlphonso Jackson Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 2004 Republican George W. Bush [22][23]
11 Coleman, William ThaddeusWilliam Thaddeus Coleman* Secretary of Transportation 1975 Republican Gerald Ford [6]
11 Slater, Rodney E.Rodney E. Slater Secretary of Transportation 1997 Democratic Bill Clinton [16][24]
12 Foxx, AnthonyAnthony Foxx Secretary of Transportation 2013 Democratic Barack Obama [25]
13 O'Leary, Hazel R.Hazel R. O'Leary* Secretary of Energy 1993 Democratic Bill Clinton [26][27]
14 Paige, RodRod Paige* Secretary of Education 2001 Republican George W. Bush [28]
15 Brown, JesseJesse Brown* Secretary of Veterans Affairs 1993 Democratic Bill Clinton [14]
16 West, Togo D.Togo D. West Secretary of Veterans Affairs 1998 Democratic Bill Clinton [29]
15 Johnson, JehJeh Johnson* Secretary of Homeland Security 2013 Democratic Barack Obama [30]

Defunct departments[edit]

The departments are listed in order of their establishment (earliest first).

 *  denotes the first African-American secretary of that particular department
# Secretary Position Year
appointed
Party Administration References
1  — Postmaster General  — [d]  — [d]  — [d]  —
2  — Secretary of the Navy  — [e]  — [e]  — [e]  —
3  — Secretary of War  — [f]  — [f]  — [f]  —
4  — Secretary of Commerce and Labor  — [g]  — [g]  — [g]  —
5 Harris, Patricia RobertsPatricia Roberts Harris* Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare 1979 Democratic Jimmy Carter [7][17]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  • a The Department of the Treasury was established in 1789; no African American has served yet.[31]
  • b The Department of Defense was established in 1947; no African American has served yet.[32]
  • c The Department of the Interior was established in 1849; no African American has served yet.[33]
  • d The Postmaster General ceased to be a member of the Cabinet when the Post Office Department was re-organized into the United States Postal Service, a special agency independent of the executive branch, by the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act. No African American had ever served while it was a Cabinet post.[34]
  • e The Secretary of the Navy ceased to be a member of the Cabinet when the Department of the Navy was absorbed into the Department of Defense in 1947. No African American had ever served while it was a Cabinet post.[35][36]
  • f The position of Secretary of War became defunct when the Department of War became the Department of Defense in 1947. No African American had ever served while it was a Cabinet post.[35]
  • g The position of Secretary of Commerce and Labor became defunct when the Department of Commerce and Labor was subdivided into two separate entities in 1913. No African American had ever served while it was a Cabinet post.[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ McKinnon, Jesse. "The Black Population: 2000 United States Census Bureau" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 22, 2007. 
  2. ^ "The Black Population: 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Time Line of African American History, 1881-1900". Library of Congress. Retrieved October 22, 2007. 
  4. ^ "Transcript of Civil Rights Act (1964)". www.ourdocuments.gov. Retrieved February 8, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b "HUD Headquarters Building Renamed to Honor Robert C. Weaver – First HUD Secretary and First African American Cabinet Member". Department of Housing and Urban Development. Retrieved February 21, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b "William T. Coleman, Jr.". Department of Transportation News. Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum. Retrieved November 8, 2008. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Patricia Roberts Harris Biography (1924-1985)". Biography.com. 2006. Retrieved November 8, 2008. 
  8. ^ a b Sanger, David E. "Colin L. Powell". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved February 8, 2009. 
  9. ^ "The first African American secretary of state Colin Powell". African American Registry. Archived from the original on June 4, 2008. Retrieved November 8, 2008. 
  10. ^ "Condoleezza Rice". White House. Retrieved November 14, 2008. 
  11. ^ Johnston, David (February 2, 2001). "Ashcroft Already Close to Filling Top Posts". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved January 18, 2009. 
  12. ^ Lewis, Neil A. (February 2, 2009). "Holder Is Confirmed as Attorney General". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved February 6, 2009. 
  13. ^ "About Mike Espy". mikespy.com. Retrieved November 8, 2008. 
  14. ^ a b "Air Force Releases Brown Crash Investigation Report". United States Department of Defense. June 13, 1996. Retrieved November 8, 2008. 
  15. ^ "Alexis M. Herman". United States Department of Labor. Retrieved November 8, 2008. 
  16. ^ a b Rosenbaum, David E. (December 21, 1996). "Clinton Fills Cabinet After Scramble to Diversify". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved February 6, 2009. 
  17. ^ a b c "Patricia Roberts Harris". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 14, 2008. 
  18. ^ Smothers, Ronald (December 23, 1988). "New Faces for 4 Cabinet Posts and the Top Environmental Job; Dr. Louis Wade Sullivan, Secretary of Health and Human Services". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved July 28, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Samuel Pierce, Jr., Reagan Cabinet Member". African American Registry. Retrieved January 28, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Samuel Pierce (1981 - 1989): Secretary of Housing and Urban Development". University of Virginia. Retrieved January 28, 2009. 
  21. ^ "Sam Pierce Takes the Fifth". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). September 28, 1989. Retrieved January 28, 2009. 
  22. ^ "The Honorable Alphonso Jackson Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development". Department of Housing and Urban Development. Retrieved February 6, 2009. 
  23. ^ Neuman, Johanna (April 1, 2008). "HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson steps down". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 6, 2009. 
  24. ^ "Rodney Slater". Forbes. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  25. ^ Steve Harrison; Curtis Tate; Kevin Thibodeaux (June 28, 2013). "Cabinet Post Caps Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx's Steep Ascent". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  26. ^ "Hazel R. O'Leary". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved November 8, 2008. 
  27. ^ "President Hazel R. O'Leary Honored by Urban League". Fisk University. August 15, 2005. Retrieved November 8, 2008. 
  28. ^ "NOW Transcript". Public Broadcasting Service. October 17, 2003. Retrieved November 8, 2008. 
  29. ^ "Namesake: Secretary Togo West". Alpha Phi Omega @ VCU. Archived from the original on 2005-02-09. Retrieved February 6, 2009. 
  30. ^ "Secretary Jeh Johnson". About Homeland Security. United States Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  31. ^ "History of the Treasury: Secretaries of the Treasury". United States Department of the Treasury. Retrieved March 22, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Histories of the Secretaries of Defense". United States Department of Defense. Retrieved November 8, 2008. 
  33. ^ "Past Secretaries of Interior". United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved November 8, 2008. 
  34. ^ "The United States Postal Service — An American History 1775–2002". United States Postal Service. September 2003. Retrieved November 13, 2008. 
  35. ^ a b "Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved November 15, 2008. 
  36. ^ "Secretaries of the Navy". Department of the Navy. Retrieved November 16, 2008. 
  37. ^ "General Records of the Department of Commerce". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved November 15, 2008.