The Biden administration continues to appoint Black Catholics to the highest levels of the US government, last week adding Kenneth Polite as assistant AG for the Criminal Division of the DOJ, and Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley as the head of diversity and inclusion for the State Department.
Both appointments were announced April 12th, in separate announcements—Polite being nominated by President Biden himself, while Abercrombie-Winstanley was appointed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Abercrombie-Winstanley hails from Cleveland and most recently served as the US Ambassador to Malta under President Obama. Her term ended in January 2016. She had previously served as a diplomat under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.
In 2004, she survived an attack on the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia by al-Qaeda and was cited for “acts of courage" during the incident, among other honors received throughout her career.
She presently worships at Nativity Catholic Church in DC.
Polite is a native New Orleanian, Catholic-educated at a high school recently highlighted as occupying the former grounds of a famous Black private school. He graduated from Georgetown Law in 2000 and served under Obama as a US Attorney in his hometown district.
He began serving on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee in 2015, but resigned from his US Attorney post entirely under pressure in March 2017, alongside a litany of other US Attorneys targeted by the Trump administration.
His home parish is St Peter Claver in New Orleans.
Polite will face a Congressional review in the coming days, though it's likely to be delayed by ongoing Congressional infighting resulting from the successful appointment of Supreme Court Associate Justice Merrick Garland.
In the meantime, the Biden administration apparently remains united in its own quest for diversity—which continues to intersect with the new president’s faith tradition.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, in priesthood formation with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).