The Cabinet of the United States has had 22 African-American appointed officers. The U.S. Census Bureau defines African Americans as citizens or residents of the United States who have origins in any of the black populations of Africa. The term is generally used for Americans with at least partial ancestry in any of the original peoples of sub-Saharan Africa. During the founding of the federal government, African Americans were consigned to a status of second-class citizenship or enslaved. No African American ever held a Cabinet position before the Civil Rights Movement or the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and labor unions.
Robert C. Weaver became the first African American to hold a Cabinet-level position when he was appointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.Patricia Roberts Harris became the first African-American female cabinet member when she was appointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1977. In 1979, Harris became the first African American to be head of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which was split into the departments of Education and Health and Human Services in the same year. The appointments of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State made them the highest-ranking African Americans in the United States presidential line of succession.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has had the most African-American Secretaries, with five. The Department of Transportation has had three. The departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Justice, State, and Veterans Affairs have each had two. The departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, and Energy has each had one. The three existing departments of Defense, Interior, and Treasury have not had African-American Secretaries. President Bill Clinton has appointed the most African Americans to the Cabinet during his tenure, with seven.
Numerical order represents the seniority of the Secretaries in the United States presidential line of succession.
|1||Colin Powell*||Secretary of State||2001||Republican||George W. Bush|||
|1||Condoleezza Rice||Secretary of State||2005||Republican||George W. Bush|||
|2||-- [a]||Secretary of the Treasury||-- [a]||-- [a]||-- [a]||--|
|3||-- [b]||Secretary of Defense||-- [b]||-- [b]||-- [b]||--|
|4||Eric Holder*||Attorney General||2009||Democratic||Barack Obama|||
|4||Loretta Lynch||Attorney General||2015||Democratic||Barack Obama|||
|5||-- [c]||Secretary of the Interior||-- [c]||-- [c]||-- [c]||--|
|6||Mike Espy*||Secretary of Agriculture||1993||Democratic||Bill Clinton|||
|7||Ron Brown*||Secretary of Commerce||1993||Democratic||Bill Clinton|||
|8||Alexis Herman*||Secretary of Labor||1997||Democratic||Bill Clinton|||
|9||Patricia Roberts Harris*||Secretary of Health and Human Services||1979||Democratic||Jimmy Carter|||
|9||Louis Wade Sullivan||Secretary of Health and Human Services||1989||Republican||George H. W. Bush|||
|10||Robert C. Weaver*||Secretary of Housing and Urban Development||1966||Democratic||Lyndon B. Johnson|||
|10||Patricia Roberts Harris||Secretary of Housing and Urban Development||1977||Democratic||Jimmy Carter|||
|10||Samuel Pierce||Secretary of Housing and Urban Development||1981||Republican||Ronald Reagan|||
|10||Alphonso Jackson||Secretary of Housing and Urban Development||2004||Republican||George W. Bush|||
|10||Ben Carson||Secretary of Housing and Urban Development||2017||Republican||Donald Trump|||
|11||*||Secretary of Transportation||1975||Republican||Gerald Ford|||
|11||Rodney E. Slater||Secretary of Transportation||1997||Democratic||Bill Clinton|||
|11||Anthony Foxx||Secretary of Transportation||2013||Democratic||Barack Obama|||
|12||Hazel R. O'Leary*||Secretary of Energy||1993||Democratic||Bill Clinton|||
|13||Rod Paige*||Secretary of Education||2001||Republican||George W. Bush|||
|13||John King Jr.||Secretary of Education||2016||Democratic||Barack Obama|||
|14||Jesse Brown*||Secretary of Veterans Affairs||1993||Democratic||Bill Clinton|||
|14||Togo D. West Jr.||Secretary of Veterans Affairs||1998||Democratic||Bill Clinton|||
|15||Jeh Johnson*||Secretary of Homeland Security||2013||Democratic||Barack Obama|||
The departments are listed in order of their establishment (earliest first).
|1||-- [d]||Postmaster General||-- [d]||-- [d]||-- [d]||--|
|2||-- [e]||Secretary of the Navy||-- [e]||-- [e]||-- [e]||--|
|3||-- [f]||Secretary of War||-- [f]||-- [f]||-- [f]||--|
|4||-- [g]||Secretary of Commerce and Labor||-- [g]||-- [g]||-- [g]||--|
|5||Patricia Roberts Harris*||Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare||1979||Democratic||Jimmy Carter|||