U.N. Ambassador: My Great Grandmother Was A Child Of A Slave, Suffering And Violence Have Been Passed Down Through Generations

Kevin Mwanza
Written by Kevin Mwanza
ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Linda Thomas-GreenfieldLinda Thomas-Greenfield, then Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs, addresses Mandela Washington Fellows at the YALI Presidential Summit, Aug. 3, 2016. State Department photo by Tim Brown.
  GPA Photo Archive Flickr/ CC

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the new U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said her great grandmother was a slave and it is important for America to understand the history of slavery in order to eliminate racial discrimination.

Thomas-Greenfield sent out the tweet in commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade on March 26.

She was sworn in as the top U.S. envoy to the U.N. on Feb. 24, and one of her first roles included presiding over the U.N. Security Council. One of six main arms of the U.N., the 15-member Security Council is charged with ensuring international peace and security and recommending new U.N. members.

During the March 16 meeting, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield clashed with her Chinese counterpart when she described her experience with racism as a challenge, but that for millions of people in countries like China and Myanmar, racism was deadly.

“My great-grandmother Mary Thomas, born in 1865, was the child of a slave. That’s just three generations back from me,” Thomas-Greenfield tweeted. “In America, eliminating racial discrimination requires a reckoning with our history of slavery, and the suffering and violence passed down through generations.”

Born in Baker, a small city outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Thomas-Greenfield was educated, for the most part, in the legally segregated South. She is the oldest of eight children, most of whom were prominent members of the Baton Rouge community.

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Thomas-Greenfield served as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa under President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017. She led U.S. policy toward sub-Saharan Africa during tumultuous events such as the massive Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

After leaving the State Department, Thomas-Greenfield took a senior leadership position at former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s global strategy company, Albright Stonebridge Group. 

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is the third African American and the second African-American woman, to become the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.