As we celebrate Black History Month, Cheddar is highlighting prominent Black Americans who are carving their own historic paths and trailblazing in their industries. While Black History Month has become synonymous with reflecting on past achievements of Black Americans, it is important that we acknowledge today's historic feats as they happen.
New York Attorney General Letitia James addresses a news conference at her office, in New York, May 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
The office of the New York attorney general has been functioning since colonial times when Thomas Rudyard was installed by the Governor of the English province of New York. More than 300 years later, Letitia 'Tish' James made history by becoming the first woman and first person of color to be elected as the state's attorney general. James' win was just one of many firsts on a decorated list of accomplishments.
Prior to stepping up as "the people's lawyer," James was the first woman of color to be elected as the city's public advocate and before that, she was the first Black person to head up the City Council's regional office in Brooklyn. In an interview with Ebony magazine, James said making history is great but she's focused and committed to serving the people.
"I don't take this for granted and I don't take this lightly. I also know a lot of people with large titles who have done absolutely nothing. For me, the question is and has always been, 'When you are blessed and elevated to this position, what are you going to do to improve the lives of others?' That's what I'm focused on," she said.
New York Attorney General Letitia James attends a rally in support of living wages for home care workers in New York, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
So far in her tenure as attorney general, James has garnered some notable wins, which included reaching an agreement with Orange County and the town of Chester to stop their discriminatory housing practices against Hasidic Jewish families. James also launched an investigation into the NYPD after a pattern of arrests suggested the agency was targeting people of color. The investigation launched shortly after the sworn affidavits of at least six NYPD officers became public in which they admitted to targeting Black and Latino subway riders at the request of NYPD leadership.
Perhaps one of James' most notable feats was her role in former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's disgraceful exit from office last year. Her office launched an investigation into Cuomo after several women claimed he sexually harassed them. The independent investigators concluded that the former governor did engage in the sexual harassment of at least 11 women during his tenure.