Updated 06/04/2023 at 10:00 a.m. ET
We all know Kamala Harris made history when she became the first Black woman Vice President. But she’s far from the only Black person breaking barriers in the Biden-Harris Administration. Here’s a rundown of the Black folks past and present who’ve been holding down the oval office over the last few years.
We’ve obviously got to start with the woman who’s been with President Joe Biden since the campaign trail, Vice President Kamala Harris. She hardly needs much of an introduction. But as the Presidential campaign heats up, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of the powerhouse attorney.
If you’ve watched a White House press briefing, you already know this addition to our list! Press Secretary Karine Jeane-Pierre, a Martinican-born Haitian-American political strategist, joined the administration in May of 2022. She is the first Black person and the first openly LGBTQ+ person to serve as White House Press Secretary.
We promised a list full of barrier-breaking White House officials, and we aim to keep our promises. Enter Shalanda Young, the first Black woman to run the massively powerful Office of Management and Budget. Young is hardly a newbie to politics or budgets, for that matter. She served as a staffer on the House Appropriations Committee for 14 years. And she ran the OMB as interim director before stepping in to fill the position full-time last spring.
Stephen Benjamin was brought into the White House earlier this year to serve as Senior Advisor and Director of the Office of Public Engagement. People may know Benjamin from his time as mayor of Columbia, South Carolina!
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 04: Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge speaks during the Freedman’s Bank Forum in the Cash Room at the Treasury Department on October 04, 2022
Marcia Fudge, a former Congresswoman turned Housing and Urban Development Secretary, may not have lobbied for the role, but she’s certainly made a splash shepherding the agency through the pandemic.
U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke has been tackling hate crimes head-on over at the Department of Justice! Clarke has been leading the offices’ Civil Rights Division since May of 2021.
Adjoa B. Asamoah
Last year, the Biden-Harris White House appointed Adjoa B. Asamoah as racial equity czar for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Her appointment marked a crucial moment in the administration’s promise to foster racial equity.
We’ve been focusing on the powerhouse Black women in the Biden Administration but didn’t forget about the men. Cedric Richmond served as Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement before leaving last spring for a role at the Democratic National Committee.
We told you we weren’t going to ignore the men behind the oval office! Micheal Regan made history as the first Black person to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, as the agency tackles climate change and the impacts of environmental racism.
Alondra Nelson may have left the White House, but she’s someone we had to have on our list. Nelson was acting director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, during arguably one of the most important times for that position. Bonus, she was the first woman of color to lead the White House’s Office of Science. Nelson then served as Deputy Director for Science and Society before leaving the position in February of this year.
We obviously can’t leave off Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo, especially when the economy is on all of our minds. Adeyemo is the number two official in the Treasury Department. He’s no stranger to politics, having served as national security adviser under President Obama.
Susan Rice hardly needs an introduction, but we’ll give her one anyway. Rice, the former national security adviser under Barack Obama, was tapped by Biden to run the White House Domestic Policy Council. Rice recently decided to step away from her role with the White House. Although with Rice, there’s always a good chance she’ll be back.
Richard Cesar, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S Department of Labor, might not be a household name. But this first generation Haitian-American member of the Biden-Harris Administration nabs a key spot on our list.
Michael Leach, Special Assistant to the President and the White House’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Director, is a new face in politics. Before joining the White House in 2019, Leach worked in the NFL.
Keisha Lance Bottoms
We can’t leave Keisha Lance Bottoms off our list! Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms served as White House Public Engagement Advisor for the Biden-Harris White House. She announced she was leaving the post in February to return to Georgia.
We can’t make this list without including former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Cecilia Rouse. Rouse was the first African American to hold the position. She departed the White House in March.
There’s no way to make this list without including Linda Thomas-Greenfield. The U.S Representative to the United Nations Ambassador and career diplomat more than earns her spot on our list.
Don’t think we forgot about Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Austin is the first Black American to serve in the position. And he’s certainly had his hands full with the military’s racism problem.
Air Force Chief of Staff General C.Q Brown isn’t new to breaking barriers. Brown is the first ever Black American to lead a branch of the military. But now, he’s potentially stepping into a new role. Biden nominated him to chair the Joint Chiefs, which would make him the most senior uniformed leader within the United States Department of Defense.
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