This Black Branch Of The President's Advisors Put Black Economics First

eleanor roosevelt with a crowd of leaders
Via Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum
Tremain Prioleau II
March 22, 2023

In 1933, Secretary of the Interior and former Chicago NAACP president Harold Ickes helped to create an informal advisory board. They lobbied to help ensure African Americans had equal access to the economic opportunities and benefits as part of  Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New-deal administration.

Officially called the Federal Council on Negro Affairs, the Black Cabinet was a powerful cohort of 27 men and 3 women composed of former economists, lawyers, sociologists, and engineers.

Mary Mcleod Bethune, cabinet member and founder of the National Council of Negro Women, used the newly created National Youth Association as the cabinet’s vessel for change. Through the NYA they ensured that Black youth would have equal access to training programs, industrial work, and federal benefits.

The Black Cabinet also prepared Black America for the impending future. They helped thousands of Black workers receive defense production training, opening the door for many of them to be employed during WWII.

The Black Cabinet was not successful in their push for President Roosevelt to adopt more aggressive measures tackling systemic racism. Yet, the Black Cabinet still used their position to positively advance the lives of Black people. 

They remind us to hold our elected leaders accountable and always find a way forward.

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