Georgia Tipsheet reports on the case of Rev. Kevin Johnson. Unlike Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the Rev. Johnson actually leads a church, Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philadelphia, PA. Earlier in April Rev. Johnson wrote an editorial in which he criticized President Obama, accusing him of neglecting blacks in cabinet appointments and in his broader political agenda. Johnson compared Obama to previous presidents and accused Obama of moving African-American leadership backwards.
Clinton appointed seven African-American cabinet members, the most of any president in history: Ron Brown as Secretary of Commerce; Mike Espy as Secretary of Agriculture; Hazel O’Leary as Secretary of Energy; Alexis Herman as Secretary of Labor; and Jesse Brown as Secretary of Veteran Affairs. President Clinton also appointed Togo West as Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Rodney Slater as Secretary of Transportation.
Compared to Obama, President George W. Bush also had more African-Americans in his cabinet, including the first African-American secretary of state and secretary of education, Colin Powell and Rod Paige, respectively. Bush also appointed Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state and Alphonso Jackson as secretary of housing and urban development.
For Obama, Eric Holder is the first African-American attorney general and the only African-American cabinet member of Obama’s administration.
In sum, when one compares the first African-American president to his recent predecessors, the number of African-Americans in senior cabinet positions is very disappointing: Clinton (7); Bush (4); and Obama (1). Obama has not moved African-American leadership forward, but backwards.
Moreover, while having African-Americans in senior cabinet positions does not guarantee an economic agenda that will advance Black people, it at least is a starting point and puts us in the driver’s seat. With President Obama, we are not in the driver’s seat – or even in the car.
That piece ran on April 14. The following day, Rev. Johnson says Morehouse College President John Silvanus Wilson, Jr. called him up about his “untimely” comments regarding the president.