The first black person to hold a top-level government position was appointed to lead the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Monday, marking a significant milestone in US history for women and racial minorities.
Lori Dye, a lawyer and retired professor at the University of Michigan Law School, became the first African-American woman to hold the top US government job in January, when she was nominated to serve as the agency’s director by President Donald Trump.
A lawyer for Trump said she would “fight to the end” to ensure the NLRB does not allow any “other gender to get ahead” at the agency.
“The president is making history,” said Rep. Grace Meng, a Democrat from New York who was nominated by the president.
“This is a first in the country, and we’re excited that she will be the first person of color to serve in the top post of the NLB.”
The nomination comes as the US grapples with the rise of a new strain of racism and sexism, which has fueled protests over a series of police killings and deaths of unarmed black men and women, including Alton Sterling, the Louisiana police officer who died in July after being shot dead by a white police officer.
Some Republicans have also called for the NLBs top job to be filled by a black woman.
The White House on Monday also appointed Rep. Katherine Clark, a Georgia Democrat who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2014, to head the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“Today marks a landmark moment in our nation’s history and an important step toward achieving the equality our nation seeks,” Clark said in a statement.
“The EEOC is a leader in advancing civil rights across our country and I am committed to ensuring its continued success.”
Dye, who was the first openly transgender woman to serve on the NLBS, was one of six women in the agency who won the job in November.
The other four were nominated by Republican presidents in the past.
Dye said she was “very excited” to have been nominated to the job, adding that she has “always wanted to work for the government”.
“I’m thrilled to be the newest face of the agency, and I know that I can bring an extraordinary level of integrity to my new position,” she said.
“I am looking forward to working with my new colleagues and colleagues of all races and backgrounds.”
The NLRB has been a central part of the civil rights movement and a symbol of the power of black women in America, with former President Barack Trump and many other prominent figures including civil rights icon Medgar Evers serving on the agency as senior staff members.
But Dye has become a political lightning rod in recent months as the Republican-led Congress has repeatedly called for her resignation, citing her role in the controversial “Stand Your Ground” law that she supported as a member of the US House of Representatives.
She has also come under fire for her treatment of Black people at work, and her handling of complaints about racist harassment at the department.
The nomination, however, does not necessarily mean Dye will be able to run for office.
The NLB will elect three members, and only one can serve for three terms.
One of those seats, which would be vacated if Dye resigned, would then be filled with a candidate who is not a member, according to the law.
Dishonoring Dye’s nomination was also a setback for the Democratic Party, which is trying to win back the House from the Republicans, a key battleground in the 2020 election.
Democratic Senate leaders have vowed to block any attempts to appoint a black person at the NLBA, saying they are “disappointed” with the decision to name a white woman to lead it.
“We expect the administration to immediately remove Ms Dye from the NLLB and we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that the NLBE is a fair and impartial agency,” Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who is also running for Senate, said in an emailed statement.
“No one deserves to be ignored or discriminated against by a federal agency,” Booker said.
The appointment of Dye marks a significant victory for women who are often at the front lines of civil rights battles.
She is one of the few African-Americans to hold top government positions and has worked in government for more than 40 years, including as a top official at the National Security Agency.
In 2014, Dye joined with other Democratic senators to form the Congressional Black Caucus, which led the fight for passage of the “Stand your ground” law, which allows police officers to use deadly force against suspects who have no visible weapon.
The legislation was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015 and Dye said at the time that she believed that “the law has no place in the United States of America”.
“It is the duty of Congress to ensure that the laws we pass, and the rules we use to govern the country reflect the values and beliefs of our diverse communities,” she wrote in a 2014