Tag Archives: Washington DC

Patricia Robert Harris ~ Women’s History Month

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Lonnie Bunch, museum director, historian, lecturer, and author, is proud to present A Page From Our American Story, a regular on-line series for Museum supporters. It will showcase individuals and events in the African American experience, placing these stories in the context of a larger story — our American story.
A Page From Our American Story
A Higher Standard: Patricia Roberts Harris
Patricia Roberts Harris sworn in as US Ambassador to Luxembourg
Patricia Harris in her swearing in ceremony
to be the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg.
Provided by the U.S. State Department.

Black women have always served a critical role in the African American community, from the names we all know — Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Rosa Parks — to today’s young mother fighting for educational opportunities for her children. Others have quietly broken barriers to open doors that were once closed to people of color.

Patricia Roberts Harris is one of those quiet warriors whose life stands as a testament to excellence, tenacity, and commitment to change.

She was born on May 31, 1924, the daughter of Hildren and Bert Roberts, in Mattoon, Illinois. A product of Illinois public schools, Harris attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., on scholarship and graduated summa cum laude in 1945. From early in her life as a brilliant scholar at Howard, she went on to become the first African American woman to serve as a United States ambassador and later the first African American woman to serve as a Cabinet Secretary. Harris was a powerful influence in American politics and a major figure during the Civil Rights Movement.

After graduation from Howard, she went back to the mid-west and began graduate work at the University of Chicago in 1946. But the opportunity to become actively involved in working for social justice drew her back to Washington, D.C. She continued her graduate work at American University, and, at the same time, served as assistant director for the American Council of Human Rights. She also served as the first national executive director of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., of which she was a member.

At the encouragement of her husband, William Beasley Harris, a prominent attorney in the District, Harris enrolled in The George Washington University Law School, where she graduated in 1960, first in her class.

During this time, while still active in the fight for civil rights, Harris became increasingly involved in the Democratic Party. Her ability to organize and manage did not go unnoticed. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy selected Harris to co-chair the National Women’s Committee for Civil Rights, described as an “umbrella organization encompassing some 100 women’s groups throughout the nation.”

In October of 1965, President Lyndon Johnson appointed Harris ambassador to Luxembourg, making her the first African American woman to be chosen as a United States envoy. For Harris the historic moment was bittersweet, saying, “I feel deeply proud and grateful this President chose me to knock down this barrier, but also a little sad about being the ‘first Negro woman’ because it implies we were not considered before.”

With the change of administration in 1968, Harris’ diplomatic role ended. She returned to Washington, D.C., and became the first woman to serve as Dean of Howard University’s School of Law.

In the early 1970s, Harris’ involvement in the Democratic Party culminated in her being named chairman of the powerful credentials committee and an at-large-delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

The election of Jimmy Carter in 1976 thrust Harris into the spotlight, again for another “first.” Shortly after taking office in 1977, Carter selected Harris to become Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Again Harris made history, this time by not only becoming the first African American woman to become a Cabinet Secretary, but also the first to be in the line of succession to the Presidency, at number 13.

During her confirmation hearing, Senator William Proxmire challenged her nomination and asked her if she felt capable of representing the interests of the poor and less fortunate in America. By this time in Harris’ life she had established herself as not only a recognized leader for civil rights, but also as a prominent corporate lawyer and businesswoman. Some, including a few black leaders, wondered if Harris had grown out of touch with the very people she was charged with serving.

Harris’ answer silenced her critics and perhaps best explains what motivated her throughout her life:

“Senator, I am one of them. You do not seem to understand who I am. I am a black woman, the daughter of a dining car waiter. …a black woman who could not buy a house eight years ago in parts of the District of Columbia. I didn’t start out as a member of a prestigious law firm, but as a woman who needed a scholarship to go to school. If you think I have forgotten that, you are wrong…if my life has any meaning at all, it is that those who start out as outcasts may end up being part of the system.”


US Postal Stamp of Patricia Roberts Harris

During her tenure as HUD Secretary, she helped reshape the focus of the department. A staunch supporter of housing rehabilitation, Harris funneled millions of dollars into upgrading deteriorating neighborhoods rather than wiping them out through slum clearance. She developed a Neighborhood Strategy Program that subsidized the renovation of apartments in deteriorated areas. In addition, she expanded the Urban Homesteading Plan and initiated Urban Development Action Grants to lure businesses into blighted areas. She poured millions of dollars into renovating deteriorating housing projects throughout the nation.

Harris was so effective in her post, that when HUD was split to create two new entities — the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — Carter moved quickly to name Harris secretary of HHS, a position she held for the remainder of his administration.

In 1982, following an unsuccessful bid to become mayor of Washington, D.C., Harris became a full-time professor at The George Washington University National Law Center. She passed away on March 23, 1985 at the age of 60.

In January, 2000, the U.S. Postal Service honored Ms. Harris with a commemorative postage stamp bearing her likeness. Dignitaries from around the nation attended the unveiling ceremony at Howard University, her alma mater, to pay tribute and recognize her contribution to the nation. In addition, Howard created the Harris Public Service Program in her honor to augment its course offerings in public policy and to encourage students to consider careers in public service.

Patricia Roberts Harris’ life is a powerful chapter in our American story. “I am one of them…,” she said at her 1977 hearing to become HUD Secretary. Those words underscored her commitment to social justice and her sense of responsibility to the African American community and to the nation. Those words serve as testament to her life and legacy: political pioneer, successful businesswoman, educator, and champion for civil and equal rights.

All the best,
Lonnie Bunch, Director

Lonnie Bunch
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the newest member of the Smithsonian Institution’s family of extraordinary museums.

The Museum will be far more than a collection of objects.
The Museum will be a powerful, positive force in the national discussion about race and the important role African Americans have played in the American story — a museum that will make all Americans proud.

“I Have a Dream Speech” 8/28/1963


On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr., delivered a speech to a massive group of civil rights marchers gathered around the Lincoln memorial in Washington DC.  The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom brought together the nations most prominent civil rights leaders, along with tens  of thousands of marchers, to press the United States government for equality.   The culmination of this event was the influential and most memorable speech of Dr. King’s career.  Popularly known as the “I have a Dream” speech, the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. influenced  the Federal government to take more direct actions to more fully realize racial equality.

Mister Maestro, Inc., and Twentieth Century Fox Records Company recorded the speech and offered the recording for sale.   Dr. King and his attorneys claimed that the speech was copyrighted and the recording violated that copyright. The court found in favor of Dr. King. Among the papers filed in the case and available at the National Archives at New York City is a deposition given by Martin Luther King, Jr. and signed in his own hand.



Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline V Woodland Caribou other wildlife, land and water

Dear Activist,The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a serious threat to wildlife and our efforts to curb climate change.Secretary of State John Kerry has the first word on the pipeline and will be one of the key factors President Obama uses when making his final decision on the pipeline.

Help protect caribou and many more at-risk wildlife by sending a message urging Secretary Kerry to say no to the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.

Thanks for all you do!

Bob Fertik

National Wildlife Federation

Woodland Caribou Habitat at Risk of Destruction


Dear Friend of Wildlife,
A few weeks ago, the U.S. State Department released their final assessment on the environmental risks of the proposal to build the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.
Following the release of the final environmental impact statement, Secretary of State John Kerry will have an opportunity to make a decision on the pipeline before it reaches President Obama’s desk.
The survival of thousands of woodland caribou in Alberta, Canada and many more wildlife is at stake with this pipeline decision, so it is absolutely critical that Secretary Kerry hear the strong opposition from America’s wildlife advocates.
Please help save woodland caribou’s habitat by telling Secretary of State John Kerry to say no to the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline today.
Sadly, the woodland caribou’s boreal forest habitat is already rapidly disappearing due to timber, oil and gas development. And now, what remains of their fragile habitat is threatened by massive expansion of tar sands if the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline is approved.
Woodland caribou require large tracts of relatively undisturbed old growth forest for their food and shelter. We know that if the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, the associated tar sands strip mining would destroy a 1,200 square mile swath of forest and devastate the fragile eco-system on which they depend. In fact, if habitat destruction from tar sands is not stopped, scientists predict that some herds in the region could disappear in as little as 30 years!
We only have a few weeks to demonstrate to Secretary Kerry the significant public concern there is about the risks—to wildlife and the environment—of building the Keystone XL pipeline. Hearing from wildlife advocates will be crucial as Secretary Kerry’s initial decision will weigh heavily into President Obama’s final decision on this destructive pipeline proposal.
Protect woodland caribou and urge Secretary Kerry to take a stand against the dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
In addition to the dramatic loss of habitat, the pipeline would also significantly increase the carbon pollution that is fueling climate change and already harming wildlife across the country.
Secretary Kerry has spoken out about environmental issues that imperil wildlife and has been a champion for strong climate change action in the past.
Now it is critical that Secretary Kerry hears from as many people as possible about how harmful this dirty pipeline would be for woodland caribou and many more wildlife—so he and President Obama can reject Keystone XL once and for all.
We only have a small window to voice our concerns to Secretary Kerry about the risks to wildlife.
Please take action today to save threatened woodland caribou.
Thanks for all you do to protect wildlife.
AndyAndy Buchsbaum Interim Executive Director, NWF Action Fund info@nwa.org Join us on Facebook

The 1% and Fracking Drilling Gasland Pipelines


So, main stream media has exposed the 1% again.  We have been hearing the rural, middle to lower class complain, object and provide negative evidence about the impact of drilling, fracking and pipelines that leak but have either been patted on the head, subjected to eminent domain for nominal amounts of money in some cases and definitely ignored by the 1%. Now, the possibility of fracking, drilling and all that comes with it is now in the back yard of the 1%.  Most of us believe the 1% invests in extracting oil in all its forms, I guess assuming it’s on other people s land and neighborhoods but that cliché … Not in my back yard syndrome is now a big slap of reality to some 1%ers too and some have decided they aren’t having it … or will they.  Anyway, the definition of NIMBY is spot on!

The so-called NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome reflects the propensity of local citizens and officials to insist on siting unwanted but necessary facilities anywhere but in their own community. The term has gained currency in relation to the siting of facilities that have a potential for adverse impacts on the environment, such as municipal waste incinerators and hazardous waste facilities. But it is equally applicable to the siting of prisons, methadone clinics, and psychiatric halfway houses— all of which are often subject to intense local opposition. For all of these examples, the best approach to the problem is that of primary prevention, which would lessen the need for such facilities. Success in siting an unwanted but needed facility requires that authorities fully involve the public with openness and integrity in all aspects of the planning process.


Read more:  http://www.answers.com/topic/not-in-my-backyard-nimby#ixzz2uOSJeqnm