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Patricia Harris: African American Political Ambassador


Patricia Harris was born on May 31, 1924, in Mattoon, Illinois, and grew up in Chicago. She earned her undergraduate degree from Howard University in 1945 and later received her law degree from George Washington University Law School in 1960.

Harris began her career as a lawyer and quickly became involved in politics. In 1960, she joined the staff of the Democratic National Committee and later worked for the presidential campaigns of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. She also served as the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg from 1965 to 1967, becoming the first African American woman to represent the United States as an ambassador.


In 1971, Harris was appointed by President Richard Nixon as the Ambassador to Switzerland, making her the first African American woman to represent the United States as a career diplomat. She held this position until 1974 when she returned to the United States to become Dean of the School of Public Affairs at Howard University.


Harris's groundbreaking achievements continued when President Jimmy Carter appointed her as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1977, making her the first African American woman to serve in a presidential cabinet. She later served as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare from 1979 to 1981, becoming the first African American woman to hold two different cabinet positions.


Throughout her career, Patricia Harris was a trailblazer for women and African Americans in politics and government. She passed away on March 23, 1985, leaving behind a legacy of public service and advocacy for equality and social justice.


Happy International Women's Month, continue to grow in the grace of our ladies of power!





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