Contemporary Black History - Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice
November 14, 1954– Present

The essence of America - that which really unites us - is not ethnicity, or nationality or religion - it is an idea - and what an idea it is: That you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. ~ Condoleezza Rice

Born in Birmingham, Alabama Condoleezza “Condi” Rice is an American political scientist, diplomat and scholar. During the administration of President George W. Bush she became the first black woman to serve as national security advisor (2001-2005) and later as the first black female Secretary of State (2005-2009).

The only child of Angelena Ray Rice, a high school teacher, and John Wesley Rice, Jr., a high school guidance counselor and Presbyterian minister, Condoleezza Rice has roots in the American South going back to the pre-Civil War era. Some of her ancestors worked as sharecroppers for a time after emancipation. In 1967, the family moved to Denver, Colorado.

Rice graduated from high school at age 16 in 1971. Rice enrolled at the University of Denver, where her father was then serving as an assistant dean. Rice initially majored in music, but switched her major to political science after her sophomore year. She obtained a master's degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame in 1975 and in 1981, at age 26, she received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Denver. That same year, she joined Stanford University as a political science professor. In 1993, Rice became the first woman and first African-American to serve as provost of Stanford University. She also served as the university's chief budget and academic officer.

Rice was a specialist on the Soviet Union and gave lectures on the topic. One performance drew the attention of Brent Scowcroft, who had served as National Security Advisor under Gerald Ford. With the election of George H. W. Bush, Scowcroft returned to the White House as National Security Adviser in 1989, and he asked Rice to become his Soviet expert on the United States National Security Council. The President relied heavily on her advice. Rice joined George W. Bush’s administration in 2001 after he was elected president. As Secretary of State, Rice traveled heavily and initiated many diplomatic efforts; at the time she held the record for most miles logged in the position. In 2009, Rice returned to the faculty of Stanford University.