African-Americans in Politics

Almost 11 years ago, in 2009, President Barack Obama, took office and became the first African-African President of the United States. This was a major advance in African-American political leadership. However, before this tremendous stride, there were many other excellent political gains made in the black community.

Hiram R. Revels

In 1870, Hiram Rhodes Revels made history by becoming the first black man to serve in Congress. He was a Republican senator who represented the state of Mississippi.

Shirley Chisholm

Nearly 100 years later, in 1969, Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman to be elected into Congress. She represented the 12th district of New York. This was not Chisholm’s only political accomplishment. In 1972, she announced her presidential bid as a Democrat. Thus, making her the first African-American to run for POTUS as a major-party candidate and the first woman to run for the Democratic party. Chisholm called herself a representative of the people, saying, “I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud…. I am the candidate of the people and my presence before you symbolizes a new era in American political history.”

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Robert C. Weaver

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Robert C. Weaver secretary of housing and urban development in his Cabinet, making him the first African-American Cabinet member. Following his Cabinet position, Weaver became the president of Baruch College. Also, under administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Weaver helped established the Black Cabinet, a nonofficial group of African-American public policy advisers.

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Patricia R. Harris

11 years after Weaver, Patricia Roberts Harris was appointed as Cabinet member under the Jimmy Carter administration in 1977, becoming the first black woman to be a Cabinet member. She was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Then, 1979, she became Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. Prior to this, Harris served as United States Ambassador to Luxembourg under President Lyndon B. Johnson, making her the first black woman to be an Ambassador. Harris was also the first to be in the line of succession to the presidency.  Harris achieved many political accomplishments, but she was also the first woman to head a law school (Howard University, 1969).

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Colin Powell

In 2004, under the presidency of George W. Bush, Colin Powell was the first African-American man to be appointed Secretary of State. Despite this big achievement, Powell is most known for his military career, in which he received distinguished medals and honors.

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Condoleezza Rice

Succeeding Powell, Condoleezza Rice was the first African-American woman to serve as Secretary of State. Also, during George W. Bush’s first term, Rice served as National Security Advisor; she was the first woman to hold that position.

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Barack Obama

Serving from 2009 to 2017, Barack Obama was the first African-American to serve as President of the United States. During his presidency, Obama worked towards improving LGBTQ+ rights, healthcare reform, and gun control.

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Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama was the first African-American First Lady of the United States. As first lady, she was a role model for women and advocated for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and healthy eating. She was also considered a fashion icon.

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