This Day in Black History: May 1, 1997

Alexis Margaret Herman became the first African-American appointed to the position of U.S. secretary of labor.

Posted: 05/01/2014 12:00 AM EDT


U.S. politician Alexis Margaret Herman made history on May 1, 1997, when she was named the 23rd U.S. secretary of labor. On this day she became the first African-American appointed to the position, working under President Bill Clinton

Herman was the assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement before her appointment. Earlier in her career, she founded and served as president of A.M. Herman & Associates and advised local and state governments on reducing and eliminating labor market barriers and human resources issues. In 1992, she helped organize the Democratic National Convention.

Herman had a steady climb in government and social service that began as a Catholic Charities social worker. Her first government position came under President Jimmy Carter, as a director of a Women’s Bureau.

Since 2007, Herman has been a director of the Coca-Cola Company and is also the chair and CEO of New Ventures, LLC. She is a chairwoman of several other corporate boards including Sodexo, Inc. and Toyota Motor Corporation’s North American Diversity Advisory Board, among others. 

Herman was born on July 16, 1947, in Mobile, Alabama. She received her bachelor's degree in sociology in 1969 at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, where she became a member of the Gamma Alpha Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

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