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Joseph Jenkins Roberts: The First African-American President of Any Nation

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Joseph Jenkins Roberts was born free in Norfolk, Virginia, on March 15, 1809. He was the second child out of seven children of his parents. As a young man, he emigrated from Norfolk, Virginia to Liberia in 1829.

In 1848, he became the first president of Liberia and served till 1856. In 1872, he was elected again to become the seventh president and served for the next four years. His political party was the Republican Party which was formed in 1848.

Before his emigration, he married an 18-year-old woman named Sarah. They had an infant with whom they emigrated under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. His wife and child died within a year and this made him marry again, this time to Jane Rose Waring.

Roberts died on February 24, 1876, less than two months after the end of his second term as president.

Black Excellence

Edith S. Sampson: The First African-American Delegate to the United Nations

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Edith Sampson, the daughter of Louis Spurlock and Elizabeth McGruder, was born on October 13, 1898, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was the first black woman to be elected as a judge in the state of Illinois.

In 1924, she opened a law office in Chicago to serve the local black community. In 1927, she became the first woman to earn a Master of Laws from Loyola University’s Graduate Law School.

On 24 August 1950, President Truman, the 33rd of the United States, appointed her as an alternate United States delegate to the United Nations. This made her the first African-American to officially represent the United States at the UN.

She became a member of the UN’s Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee, where she lobbied for continued support of work in social welfare. She died on October 8, 1979.

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Loretta E. Lynch: The First African-American Woman Attorney General of the United States

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Loretta Lynch, who served under President Bill Clinton as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, was born on May 21, 1959, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

She attended Harvard Law School and first earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and American literature from the school in 1981 and, later, a Juris Doctor in 1984. She married her husband, Stephen Hargrove, in 2007.

President Barack Obama nominated her on November 8, 2014, to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General. She was confirmed as the attorney by the Senate by a 56–43 vote On April 23, 2015, making the first African-American woman to achieve the feat.

Lynch was sworn in on April 27, 2015, and went on to serve as the Attorney General from 2015 to 2017.

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Black Excellence

Michelle Robinson Obama: The First African-American First Lady of the United States

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Michelle Obama was born on January 17, 1964, in Chicago, Illinois, to Fraser Robinson and Marian Shields. The American lawyer and writer was the first African-American First Lady, being married to Barack Obama, the 44th U.S. President.

She met Obama at Sidley Austin LLP when they were among the few African-Americans at their law firm. She was to serve as his mentor while he was a summer associate. The couple married on October 3, 1992.

In 1991, Michelle left corporate law to pursue a career in public service. This was to enable her to fulfill a personal passion and create networking opportunities which later became beneficial to her husband’s political career.

She visited soup kitchens and homeless shelters in her early months as the First Lady. In 2009, she was named Barbara Walters’ Most Fascinating Person of the year. Michelle co-founded the Joining Forces program in 2011 to expand employment and educational options for veterans. The program also raised awareness about the difficulties plaguing military families.

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