On this day in history, December 21, 1976, educator and former U.S. diplomat Patricia Roberts Harris was named Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development by President Jimmy Carter, becoming the first Black woman appointed to a presidential cabinet position.

Born in Mattoon, Illinois, Harris excelled in school. She attended Howard University, graduating in 1945. She would later she become the first female dean of Howard University Law School in 1969. Harris went on to attend George Washington University Law School, graduating at the top of her class in 1960.

Also on her list of historical firsts for Black women in politics, Harris was appointed to co-chair the National Women’s Committee for Human Rights by President John F. Kennedy and selected by President Lyndon B. Johnson to become the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg. She also served as a director of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

On March 23, 1985, Harris passed away from breast cancer at age 60.


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