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Patricia Roberts Harris was born and raised in a working-class suburb of Chicago, Illinois. She accepted a scholarship from Howard University in Washington, D.C., where in 1943 she participated in one of the country's first student sit-ins, at a whites-only cafeteria in a black neighborhood. She later attended law school at Washington's George Washington University, from which she graduated first in her class. In 1961, she joined the faculty of Howard Law School.

A lifelong member of the Democratic Party, Harris served on several federal commissions concerned with minority rights. In 1965, largely on the strength of this work, President Johnson appointed her U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. After a brief and noncontroversial posting, she returned to Howard in 1967 and in 1969 was named dean of the law school Immediately after her appointment students protested for greater power in university decisions Harris took a strong ...

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Mona E. Jackson

Honored in 2000 with a postal stamp bearing her portrait, the politician and civil rights advocate Patricia Roberts Harris was a leader in trying to bring about improvements and progress for disadvantaged people. Her career culminated in being named the secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.

Patricia Roberts was born in Mattoon, Illinois, to Bert and Hildren Roberts. She and her brother were raised by their mother after her father left the family when she was still a young child. Racked by economic hardships, Roberts’s mother knew that education was the means to gaining a better life and continually stressed its importance to her daughter. Roberts followed her mother’s advice, and after finishing her secondary education in Chicago, Roberts entered Howard University’s School of Liberal Arts in 1941 from which she graduated summa cum laude four years later While ...