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Courtesy Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Addison Scurlock

The "Black Cabinet"

President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed an unprecedented number of African Americans to high positions. By mid-1935, forty-five had positions in cabinet offices and New Deal agencies. In 1936, this group began calling itself the Federal Council on Negro Affairs. Although these leaders were not officially cabinet members, their role in advising the President on black employment, education, and civil rights issues led the press to refer to them as FDR's "Black Cabinet" or the "Black Brain Trust." Among them were Mary McLeod Bethune, director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration; William H. Hastie, assistant solicitor in the Department of the Interior; and Robert C. Weaver, who served as a special assistant to the Administrator of the United States Housing Authority.

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