Kamala Harris is the highest-ranking African American to serve in a Cabinet as Vice President of the United States.
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 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 to lead the Federal Executive Department; each held the post of Secretary of State.

The Cabinet of the United States has had 24 African-American appointed officers serving as secretaries of one or more of the United States federal executive departments and 10 African-American as cabinet-level officials; with one of them appointed at the helm of the different departments. The vice president historically is also part of the Cabinet, ready to assume the Presidency should the need arise; to date, one African-American has been elected to the position. The U.S. Census Bureau defines African Americans as 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 ancestry in any of the original peoples of sub-Saharan Africa. During the founding of the federal government, African Americans were consigned to a status of second-class citizenship or enslaved.[2] No African American ever held a cabinet position before the Civil Rights Movement or the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and labor unions.[3]

Robert C. Weaver became the first African-American to hold a cabinet position; he was appointed secretary of housing and urban development in 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.[4] Patricia Roberts Harris became the first Black woman to serve in the president's cabinet when she was appointed to the same position in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter. Harris was the first African-American person to have held two different cabinet positions during a single administration when appointed secretary of health and human services two years later.[a][5]

On January 20, 2001, Colin Powell was appointed secretary of state, which is first in United States presidential line of succession among Cabinet secretaries; thus became the highest-ranking African American in the country's history, up to that time. Condoleezza Rice became the highest-ranking black woman in line when she was appointed to the same position in 2005. On January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris replaced both Powell and Rice as the highest-ranking African American person in the line of succession when she was inaugurated as vice president.[6][7]

President Bill Clinton named four African-Americans as secretaries to his initial Cabinet—former DAV Executive Director Jesse Brown as secretary of veterans affairs, DNC Chairman Ron Brown as secretary of commerce, Congresswman Mike Espy (D-MS) as secretary of agriculture, and corporate director Hazel R. O'Leary as secretary of energy. Clinton exceeded that record to seven, including cabinet reshuffles during his second term in office.[8]

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has had the most African-American secretaries with six. The Department of Transportation has had three. The departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Justice, State, and Veterans Affairs have had two. The departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, and Labor have had one. The departments of Interior and Treasury are the only existing Cabinet departments that have not had African-American secretaries yet.[9][10]

Totals for this list include only African-American presidential appointees confirmed (if necessary) by the United States Senate to cabinet or cabinet-level positions and taking their oath of office; they do not include acting officials or nominees awaiting confirmation.

Permanent Cabinet members

The following list includes African-Americans who have held permanent positions in the Cabinet, all of whom are in the line of succession to the presidency. The table below is organized based on the beginning of their terms in office. Officeholders whose terms begin the same day are ranked according presidential order of succession.

 *  denotes the first African-American holder of that particular office
No. Portrait Name Office Succession[7] Took office Left office Party Administration(s) Ref.
1
Robert C. Weaver official portrait.jpg
Robert C. Weaver* Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 13 January 18, 1966 December 18, 1968 Democratic Johnson [4]
2
William thaddeus coleman.jpg
William Coleman* Secretary of Transportation 14 March 7, 1975 January 20, 1977 Republican Ford [11]
3
Patricia R. Harris official portrait.jpg
Patricia Harris Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 13 January 23, 1977 September 10, 1979 Democratic Carter [5]
Secretary of Health and Human Services[a] 12 August 3, 1979 January 20, 1981
4
Samuel Pierce official portrait.jpg
Samuel Pierce Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 13 January 23, 1981 January 20, 1989 Republican Reagan [13]
5
SullivanLouis.jpg
Louis Sullivan Secretary of Health and Human Services 12 March 1, 1989 January 20, 1993 Bush Sr. [14]
6
Mike Espy.jpg
Mike Espy* Secretary of Agriculture 9 January 22, 1993 December 31, 1994 Democratic Clinton [15]
7
RonBrownUS.JPG
Ron Brown* Secretary of Commerce 10 January 22, 1993 April 3, 1996 [16]
8
Hazel O
Hazel R. O'Leary* Secretary of Energy 15 January 22, 1993 January 20, 1997 [17]
9
Jesse brown va.jpg
Jesse Brown* Secretary of Veterans Affairs 17 January 22, 1993 July 13, 1997 [18]
10
Slater rodney.jpg
Rodney E. Slater Secretary of Transportation 14 February 14, 1997 January 20, 2001 [19]
11
Alexis osec.jpg
Alexis Herman* Secretary of Labor 11 May 1, 1997 January 20, 2001 [20][21]
12
TogoDWest.jpg
Togo D. West Secretary of Veterans Affairs 17 May 4, 1998 July 25, 2000 [22]
13
Colin Powell official Secretary of State photo.jpg
Colin Powell* Secretary of State 4 January 20, 2001 January 26, 2005 Republican Bush Jr. [23]
14
Rod Paige.jpg
Rod Paige* Secretary of Education 16 January 20, 2001 January 20, 2005 [24]
15
Alphonso Jackson official portrait.jpg
Alphonso Jackson Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 13 August 31, 2004 April 18, 2008 [25]
16
Condoleezza Rice cropped.jpg
Condoleezza Rice Secretary of State 4 January 26, 2005 January 20, 2009 [26]
17
Eric Holder official portrait.jpg
Eric Holder* Attorney General 7 February 3, 2009 April 27, 2015 Democratic Obama [27]
18
Anthony Foxx official portrait.jpg
Anthony Foxx Secretary of Transportation 14 July 2, 2013 January 20, 2017 [28]
19
Jeh Johnson official DHS portrait.jpg
Jeh Johnson* Secretary of Homeland Security 18 December 23, 2013 January 20, 2017 [29]
20
Loretta Lynch, official portrait.jpg
Loretta Lynch Attorney General 7 April 27, 2015 January 20, 2017 [30]
21
John B. King official portrait.jpg
John King Secretary of Education 16 January 1, 2016 January 20, 2017 [31]
22
Ben Carson official portrait.jpg
Ben Carson Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 13 March 2, 2017 January 20, 2021 Republican Trump [32]
23
Kamala Harris Vice Presidential Portrait.jpg
Kamala Harris* Vice President 1 January 20, 2021 Incumbent Democratic Biden [6]
24
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III (50885754687).jpg
Lloyd Austin* Secretary of Defense 6 January 22, 2021 Incumbent [33]
25
Secretary Fudge official photo.png
Marcia Fudge Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 13 March 10, 2021 Incumbent [34]

Former permanent Cabinet members

Cabinet-level positions

The president may designate or remove additional officials as cabinet members. These positions have not always been in the Cabinet, so some African American officeholders may not be listed.

The following list includes African-Americans who have held cabinet-rank positions, which can vary under each president. They are not in the line of succession and are not necessarily officers of the United States. The table below is organized based on the beginning of their terms in office while it raised to cabinet-level status. Officeholders whose terms begin the same day are ranked alphabetically by last name.

 *  denotes the first African-American holder of that particular office
No. Portrait Name Office Took office Left office Party Administration(s) Ref.
1
Andrew Young, bw head-and-shoulders photo, June 6, 1977.jpg
Andrew Young* Ambassador to the United Nations January 30, 1977 September 23, 1979 Democratic Carter [39]
2
UnitedNationsAmbassadorMcHenry.jpg
Donald McHenry Ambassador to the United Nations September 23, 1979 January 20, 1981 [40]
3
Franklin Raines July 2002.jpg
Franklin Raines* Director of the Office of Management and Budget April 13, 1996 May 21, 1998 Clinton
4
Lisa P. Jackson official portrait.jpg
Lisa P. Jackson* Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency January 23, 2009 February 19, 2013 Obama [41]
5
Susan Rice, official State Dept photo portrait, 2009.jpg
Susan Rice Ambassador to the United Nations January 26, 2009 June 30, 2013 [42]
6
Ron Kirk official portrait.jpg
Ron Kirk* Trade Representative March 18, 2009 March 15, 2013 [43]
7
Linda-Thomas-Greenfield-v1-8x10-1.jpg
Linda Thomas-Greenfield Ambassador to the United Nations February 25, 2021 Incumbent Biden [44]
8
Michael S. Regan official photo.jpg
Michael S. Regan Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency March 11, 2021 Incumbent [45]
9
Cecilia Rouse, CEA Chair.png
Cecilia Rouse* Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers March 12, 2021 Incumbent [46]
10
Shalanda Young, OMB Deputy Director.jpg
Shalanda Young Director of the Office of Management and Budget March 17, 2022 Incumbent [47]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b The position was established the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare on April 11, 1953; thereafter became the Secretary of Health and Human Services on May 4, 1980.[12]

References

  1. ^ "The Black Population: 2010" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  2. ^ "Time Line of African American History, 1881–1900". Library of Congress. Retrieved October 22, 2007.
  3. ^ "Transcript of Civil Rights Act (1964)". Retrieved February 8, 2009.
  4. ^ a b Weil, Martin (July 20, 1997). "Robert C. Weaver Dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 21, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Boyd, Gerald M. (March 24, 1985). "Patricia R. Harris, Carter Aide, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  6. ^ a b Schaff, Erin (November 7, 2020). "Kamala Harris Makes History as First Woman and Woman of Color as Vice President". The New York Times. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  7. ^ a b Feerick, John. "Essays on Amendment XXV: Presidential Succession". The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. The Heritage Foundation. Archived from the original on August 22, 2020. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  8. ^ Johnson, Kevin (April 14, 2013). "A president for everyone, except Black people". The Philadelphia Tribune. Archived from the original on February 2, 2021. Retrieved April 15, 2013.
  9. ^ "History of the Treasury: Secretaries of the Treasury". United States Department of the Treasury. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  10. ^ "Past Secretaries of Interior". United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved November 8, 2008.
  11. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (March 31, 2017). "William T. Coleman Jr., Who Broke Racial Barriers in Court and Cabinet, Dies at 96". The New York Times. Retrieved February 16, 2020.
  12. ^ "HHS Historical Highlights". United States Department of Health and Human Services. June 19, 2016. Archived from the original on May 22, 2015. Retrieved September 15, 2022.
  13. ^ Shenon, Philip (November 3, 2000). "Samuel R. Pierce Jr., Ex-Housing Secretary, Dies at 78". The WNew York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2009.
  14. ^ "Sullivan Confirmed as HHS Chief by 98-1 Vote". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. March 1, 1989. Retrieved November 2, 2009.
  15. ^ Baer, Susan (October 4, 1994). "Embattled Espy resigns as chief of Agriculture". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  16. ^ Balz, Dan; Sharon, Walsh (April 4, 1996). "Ron Brown, a pioneer at home in black and white America". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 2, 2015.
  17. ^ Harrington, Linda M. (May 1, 1994). "No Pie in the Sky". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 19, 2008.
  18. ^ Barringer, Felicity (December 18, 1992). "The Transition: Clinton Selects Ex-Mayor for H.U.D. and an Ex-Marine for Veterans Affairs; Defender of the Rights of Veterans Masters Thickets of Regulations". The New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2008.
  19. ^ Stout, David (February 7, 1997). "Senate Easily Confirms Slater As Transportation Secretary". The New York Times. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  20. ^ "Alexis M. Herman". United States Department of Labor. Archived from the original on 2008-11-05. Retrieved November 8, 2008.
  21. ^ Rosenbaum, David E. (December 21, 1996). "Clinton Fills Cabinet After Scramble to Diversify". The New York Times. Retrieved February 6, 2009.
  22. ^ Roberts, Sam (March 13, 2018). "Togo West Jr., 75, Dies; Army Secretary in Time of Transition". The New York Times. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  23. ^ Anderson, Nick (January 21, 2001). "Senate Gives Quick Approval to 7 Bush Cabinet Appointees". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  24. ^ Schemo, Diana Jean (November 12, 2004). "Education Secretary Plans to Resign". The New York Times. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
  25. ^ Neuman, Joanna (April 1, 2008). "Housing secretary resigns". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 12, 2008.
  26. ^ Schweid, Barry (January 26, 2005). "Rice Is Confirmed Despite Opposition". The Seattle Times. Retrieved November 24, 2009.
  27. ^ Lewis, Neil A. (February 2, 2009). "Holder Is Confirmed as Attorney General". The New York Times. Retrieved February 6, 2009.
  28. ^ Boles, Corey (June 28, 2013). "Foxx Cleared for Transportation Post". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  29. ^ Saenz, Arlette (December 17, 2013). "Senate Confirms Jeh Johnson as DHS Secretary". ABC News. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  30. ^ DeBonis, Mike (April 23, 2015). "Loretta Lynch confirmed by Senate as attorney general". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 25, 2015.
  31. ^ Resmovits, Joy (March 20, 2016). "New Education Secretary John B. King Jr. knows the value of a second chance". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
  32. ^ Woellert, Lorraine (March 2, 2017). "Ben Carson Is Confirmed as HUD Secretary". Politico. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  33. ^ Edmondson, Catie (January 22, 2021). "Lloyd Austin is confirmed, becoming the first Black defense secretary in U.S. history". The New York Times. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  34. ^ Stracqualursi, Veronica (March 10, 2021). "Senate confirms Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge as HUD secretary". CNN. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  35. ^ "The United States Postal Service — An American History 1775–2002" (PDF). United States Postal Service. September 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-19. Retrieved November 13, 2008.
  36. ^ a b "Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved November 15, 2008.
  37. ^ "Secretaries of the Navy". Department of the Navy. Archived from the original on August 1, 2014. Retrieved November 16, 2008.
  38. ^ "General Records of the Department of Commerce". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved November 15, 2008.
  39. ^ Lelyveld, Joseph (February 6, 1977). "Our new voice at the U.N." The New York Times. Retrieved March 22, 2021.
  40. ^ Teltsch, Kathleen (September 1, 1979). "M'HENRY APPOINTED TO YYOUNG'S U.N. JOB". The New York Times. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  41. ^ Hebert, H. Josef (January 23, 2009). "Jackson confirmed for EPA". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Associated Press. Retrieved January 27, 2009.
  42. ^ "U.S. Senate confirms Rice as U.N. ambassador". Reuters. January 23, 2009. Retrieved November 19, 2009.
  43. ^ Palmer, Doug (March 18, 2009). "Senate approves Kirk as U.S. trade representative". Reuters. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  44. ^ Lee, Matthew (February 24, 2021). "Senate confirms Linda Thomas-Greenfield as UN ambassador". Associated Press. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  45. ^ Stark, Liz (March 10, 2021). "Senate confirms Michael Regan as head of Environmental Protection Agency". CNN. Retrieved March 21, 2021.
  46. ^ Tankersley, Jim (March 2, 2021). "Senate confirms Cecilia Rouse as the first Black chair of White House economic council". The New York Times. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  47. ^ Sullivan, Kate; Zaslav, Ali (March 15, 2022). "Shalanda Young becomes first Black woman to lead White House budget office following Senate confirmation". CNN. Retrieved March 16, 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)