Thursday, October 19, 2017
Ambassadors (Part II)
By Yussuf Simmonds (Managing Editor)
Published February 26, 2009

"They represented the United States throughout the World"

Many of the Black men and women who represented the United States as ambassadors have done extraordinary work and for the most part, they were sent to the Caribbean and/or African nations with few exceptions. After Edward R. Dudley was appointed the first Black ambassador (plenipotentiary) assigned to Liberia, black ambassadors have become as commonplace as city council-members and mayors. Though their positions are not always high-profiled, their services are beyond reproach.


SUSAN RICE – THE UNITED NATIONS: Recently confirmed as the first Black woman to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Rice served as the top foreign policy advisor during President Barack Obama's campaign. She was an assistant secretary of state for African Affairs in the Clinton administration where she also served on the National Security Council staff. She has solid credentials in foreign policy and is presently on leave from the Brookings Institute.

In addition to the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., many Blacks have been appointed to the U.N. as alternate delegates including WILLIAM DEAN, EDITH SAMPSON, FRANKLIN WILLIAMS, JAMES M. NABRIT, ROBERT L. BROKENBURR, ARCHIBALD J. CAREY, ZELMA GEORGE, CHARLES MAHONEY, CHANNING H. TOBIAS and RALPH J. BUNCHE, as under-secretary general.


EBENEZER D. BASSETT – HAITI: The first African American to lead a diplomatic mission, Bassett was born in Connecticut in 1833 when slavery was still legal in the United States. His parents were free Blacks and that assured him a normal education. In an unprecedented move, he became the first Black student to integrate the Connecticut Normal School in 1853, twelve years before the Emancipation Proclamation and 101 years before the Brown v Board of Education case. However, he was keenly cognizant of the inhuman treatment that slaves received and became an educator, abolitionist and a Black rights advocate. During the Civil War, Haiti was of strategic importance to the U.S. and Bassett became the U.S. diplomat to Haiti, known then as the "Black Republic" of the Western Hemisphere. His appointment to Haiti in 1869 was considered an implausible phenomenon given the racial climate of the 19th century. Bassett died in 1908. 

FREDERICK DOUGLASS – HAITI: Douglass fought for the adoption of constitutional amendments, voting rights and other civil liberties for Blacks. Being a gifted orator, an abolitionist and a freedom fighter led Douglass naturally down the political road. In 1872, he moved to Washington D.C. where he initially served as a publisher of the New National Era, a work intended to elevate the position of Blacks in the post-Emancipation/Reconstruction Era. Promised financing failed to materialize and this endeavor soon fizzled. In 1874, he served as president of the Freedmen's Bank and Trust Company, and in various other national service positions. He was marshal of the District of Columbia and also its recorder of deeds. In 1889, he was appointed minister-resident and consul general to the republic of Haiti; and later on he became the charge d'affaires to Santo Domingo. Douglass died of a heart attack at the age of 77 in Washington D.C. in 1895 and was laid to rest in Rochester, New York.

SIDNEY WILLIAMS – BAHAMAS: In the book "Men of Courage," in defining what makes up a winner, it stated, "you could just define winner as simply ….. Sidney Williams." He was a star linebacker in the NFL and the only player in NFL history to become an ambassador; he served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas for four years. Following a professional football career, Williams moved to Los Angeles and earned a Masters degree from Pepperdine University. While working for a local city councilman, he met and eventually married Maxine Waters, who is presently the congresswoman for the 35th District. He was appointed ambassador to the Bahamas by President Bill Clinton. Prior to his ambassadorial appointment, he had earned the reputation as an astute businessman. As ambassador, he helped develop businesses between the U.S. and the Bahamas, and assisted in changing money laundering and drug laws in that Caribbean country. Williams is a member of the Association of Black American Ambassadors, the NAACP, Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity and a lifetime member of Southern University Alumni. 

DR. ROY L. AUSTIN – TRINIDAD & TOBAGO: As ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary Austin was confirmed by the U.S. Senate immediately after the 9/11 attacks, which placed him in that post at a delicate moment in history, even though the country where he was appointed was at peace with the U.S. Many places in the world had become extremely dangerous for U.S. diplomats. He was appointed by President George W. Bush with whom he had been a classmate at Yale University. Prior to his ambassadorial appointment, Austin was a professor of Sociology at Penn State University having earned his Ph.D. in Sociology. His academic focus has been on race and gender disparities in the criminal justice system. Austin was familiar with the Caribbean since he was born in Kingstown, St. Vincent, in 1939 where he worked as a schoolteacher and a customs officer before winning a scholarship to Yale. He is a member of the American Sociological Association, the Caribbean Studies Association and the American Society of Criminology. His knowledge and connection to the region made him a valuable asset as an ambassador in that area of the world.


JAMES JOSEPH – SOUTH AFRICA: He was the first U.S. ambassador to present his credentials to President Nelson Mandela and he served throughout Mandela's tenure. Appointed by President Clinton, Joseph used his position during and post-ambassadorial tenure to assist South African universities to connect with their counterparts in the U.S. In recognition of his contributions, President Thabo Mbeki, Mandela's successor awarded him the Order of Good Hope, the country's highest honor to a citizen of another country.  Presently, Joseph is a professor at Duke University and has launched the U.S.-Southern Africa Center for Leadership and Public Values, based in Durham and Capetown, S.A. A former civil rights activist, He has authored two books: "The Charitable Impulse" and "Remaking America." During lectures, Joseph often discusses lessons that he learned from Mandela.

MAURICE PARKER – SWAZILAND: Parker had been a career member of the senior foreign service before being appointed ambassador to Swaziland by President G.W. Bush in 2007. He also held a variety of posts within the Foreign Service including Director of the Office of Employee Relations, assignments in the Bureau of Human Resources and after 9/11, he was stationed at the White House as Director of Consular and International Programs at the Homeland Security Council. Parker's career is well rounded in overseas assignments having also served in Nigeria, Scotland, Columbia, Guyana and Spain. He is a native of California.

GAYLEATHA B. BROWN – BENIN: Having served in several diplomatic posts during her career with the U.S., State Department, her appointment as ambassador to Benin was a highlight of her achievements. As a graduate of Howard University, Brown conducted post-graduate work in International Relations at the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University. She has also held posts in Pretoria, South Africa; Strasbourg, France; Harare, Zimbabwe; and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in addition to being a special assistant to the Agency for International Development (USAID).

BERNADETTE M. ALLEN – NIGER: Allen was born in Washington, D.C. – close to the center of power – and raised in Maryland. She studied abroad earning a certificate in French Civilization from the Sorbonne in Paris before she was commissioned into the diplomatic service in 1980, and completed her M.A. in Human Resources Management while at the State Department. Allen is fluent in French and Mandarin Chinese. She was appointed by President G.W. Bush as ambassador to the Republic of Niger and was confirmed by the Senate in 2006. Her foreign previous assignments included posts at the U.S. Embassy in Burundi and the Philippines; the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka, Japan; Guangzhou, China; and Montreal, Canada.

ROBIN SANDERS – NIGERIA and THE REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: Prior to her appointment as ambassador to Nigeria, Sanders served as International Advisor and Deputy Commandant of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, one of the military's premier colleges at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. She served as ambassador to the Republic of the Congo (2002-2005) and was reappointed as ambassador to Nigeria (2007 to the present). Sanders served under two presidents at the National Security Council at the White House: Clinton and G.W. Bush. She holds a Masters of Art degree in International Relations and African Studies which made her ideal for the ambassador positions to which she had been appointed.

JAMES D. MCGEE – ZIMBABWE, SWAZILAND, MADAGASCAR and THE COMOROS: As a former Air Force fighter during the Vietnam War, McGee earned three Distinguished Flying Crosses and then went on to learn Vietnamese at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. He has served in several ambassadorial posts prior to Zimbabwe where he is presently assigned and has earned the wrath of President Robert Mugabe for allegedly interfering in the country's internal problems. McGee's also served in other non-ambassadorial assignments within the State Department in Nigeria, Pakistan, The Hague, India, Barbados, Jamaica, and Cote d'Ivoire. He was born in Illinois and graduated from the University of Indiana.

CHARLES STITH – TANZANIA: When Stith was appointed as ambassador to Tanzania, the U.S. Embassy in that country (Dar es Salaam) has just been bombed. Under his leadership, the embassy was restored to stability and he was able to set new standards for promoting trade and investment in Africa. Appointed by President Clinton, his other achievements included getting Tanzania to sign the first ever "Open Skies Agreement" with the U.S. and an African country; the successful negotiation of code-share agreements for Delta and Northwest Airlines; and the historic visit of President Mkapa of Tanzania to the U.S. He worked with the Tanzanian government to enable it to become the first sub-Saharan country eligible for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiatives (HIPC).  Since returning to the U.S., Stith has been appointed chancellor of Boston University to establish the African Presidential Archives and Research Center which provides a forum and resources for exchanges on political and economic developments in sub-Sahara Africa.

ERIC M. BOST – SOUTH AFRICA: Bost is one of the ambassadors whose tenure ended on January 20, 2009 when President Obama was inaugurated. He was appointed as ambassador to South Africa by President G.W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate in 2006. Prior to his assignment with the State Department, Bost worked as Commissioner of CEO at the Texas Department of Human Services and as a special under-secretary in the Department of Agriculture. There he led a U.S. initiative to promote improved nutrition and food security in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe Mexico and South America. As ambassador, he presented his credentials to President Mbeki.

EUNICE REDDICK – GABON and SAO TOME & PRINCIPE: Prior to being appointed as ambassador to the Republics of Gabon and San Tome & Principe, Reddick was the director of the Office of Eastern African Affairs in the State Department's Bureau of African Affairs. A career member of the Foreign Service, she began her career in 1981 as a consular officer in Harare, Zimbabwe. She also studied Mandarin Chinese at the AIT/Taipei Language School which led to an assignment at the embassy in Beijing. As a 1993 recipient of the Rusk Fellowship, Reddick studied Diplomacy at Georgetown University and went on to serve in numerous Foreign Service positions in the East Asian Office of Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam Affairs. Reddick is married Ambassador Marc M. Wall.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD – LIBERIA: Prior to joining the State Department, Thomas-Greenfield taught Political Science at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. While working towards her Ph.D., she conducted research in Liberia which was very useful when she became that country's ambassador. A recipient of the Warren Christopher award for outstanding achievement in global affairs, Thomas-Greenfield is also a career member of the senior Foreign Service at the minister-counselor level. Before being appointed ambassador to Liberia by President G.W. Bush in 2008, she was the principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs, there she received the Presidential Meritorious Service award. She was sworn in by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

MARCIA S. BERNICAT – SENEGAL & GUINEA-BISSEAU: Most recently Bernicat served as office director in the State Department for India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Bhutan. She was appointed ambassador by President G.W. Bush in 2008 and last December, she opened a children's nutrition center in Tattaguine, Senegal, which was fully funded by the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) humanitarian assistance program. On election night, Bernicat invited American and Senegalese guests to her residence to share President Obama's victory. There she stressed the global interest in the U.S. presidential election and the role the new president will play in the possibilities of the African continent. She speaks French, Hindi and Russian and prior to joining the Foreign Service, she worked in the private sector.

JUNE CARTER PERRY – SIERRA LEONE and LESOTHO: Prior to her diplomatic career, Perry was director of Public Affairs at the national volunteer agency (ACTION) which included the Peace Corps; the director of public affairs at WGMS/RKO Radio Corporation; and an instructor at the University of Maryland and North Carolina A&T State University. Her introduction to the Foreign Service began at the State Department's Senior Seminar and the National Defense University's CAPSTONE program which she attended after graduating from Loyola University, Chicago. She was a Diplomat-in-Residence at Howard University where she promoted Secretary of State Colin Powell's Diplomatic Readiness Act and received the Diplomat-in-Residence of the Year award. Perry was appointed ambassador to Sierra Leone by President G.W. Bush in 2007 after serving in the same capacity in Lesotho.  Well-known and versed in African affairs, she has also served in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Categories: Legends

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