Patricia Roberts Harris began her career as a lawyer and political adviser, even working as a director at IBM for a time. She also served as United States Ambassador to Luxembourg under President Lyndon B. Johnson, and was the first African-American woman to represent the United States as an ambassador. In 1977, she became the first African American woman named to a presidential cabinet (under President Jimmy Carter) and was the first woman to be part of the line of succession to the Presidency. She was 13th in line.
The first black* author to win the Pulitzer Prize.
The first black woman to be poetry consultant to the Library of Congress.
Poet laureate of the State of Illinois.
She had a love of reading and writing from a young age and was only 13 when her first published poem, “Eventide,” appeared in American Childhood. By 17, she was a frequent contributor to the Chicago Defender, a newspaper serving Chicago’s black population. She published her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville in 1945. Throughout her life, she often wrote with politics and civil rights in mind.
Ann Petry wanted to be a novelist from the moment a teacher praised her writing in high school, but as happens to so many of us, her parents wanted her to do something more practical. So she studied pharmacy (her father’s profession) and worked in the family business for many years. But she wrote and published short stories on the side.
While working in an after-school program in Harlem, Ann saw for the first time how sheltered her life had been and what most African Americans in the early 20th century had to go through. This inspired her to write The Street, her first novel, which was so wildly popular she became the first black woman writer with book sales topping a million copies. She went on to write several additional novels.
Euphemia Lofton Haynes was a principal and deputy superintendent in charge of Washington’s “colored schools” (the schools for African Americans) before she earned her Ph.D. in Mathematics at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., in 1943, which made her the first African American Woman to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics.
The title of her dissertation was “The Determination of Sets of Independent Conditions Characterizing Certain Special Cases of Symmetric Correspondences.”
Dr. Haynes taught in the public schools of Washington, D.C., for 47 years and was the first woman to chair the local school board. She established the mathematics department at Miner Teachers College, where she was also a professor, and was chair of the Division of Mathematics and Business Education at the District of Columbia Teachers College. In 1959, she retired, but served as head of the city’s Board of Education, and was central to the integration of Washington, D.C. public schools.