First Black Woman Deputy Secretary at USDA, Leaving Department

She has stewarded well in her position supporting Black landowners.

Jewel Bronaugh, the first Black women to be appointed as deputy secretary for the Department of Agriculture, is leaving the department on Tuesday, following a two-year tenure leading diversity efforts at the agency.

According to CNN, Bronaugh made the announcement leave last month. She said she wanted to leave to spend more time with family.

“I understood as a Black woman, coming into the role as deputy secretary, the weight that went with that,” Bronaugh told CNN. “The responsibility that went with that. The people who for years have not been able to get resources from USDA. The history that that has had on farmers and landowners and people who live in rural communities, I knew that I had a responsibility.”

During Bronaugh’s time at the department, she worked to provide relief for farmers and ranchers of color. She co-chaired an independent commission that examined the USDA policies and programs, led international agricultural trade missions in the United Kingdom and countries in East Africa, and helped create a chief diversity and inclusion office within the Office of the Secretary.

“When you look at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and you look at all of the actions we have suffered as Black people trying to get the programs that should have been available to everyone, to access them and feel that they were being implemented fairly–to actually have someone in the second position…really helping to oversee that and have a voice in places we don’t normally get a chance to be in, just to me, meant a lot,” said Shirley Sherrod, a member of the Equity Commission.

Bronaugh said getting the Equity Commission to go with a set of interim recommendations will provide the opportunity to examine discretion, authority, and address historical issues at the USDA.

Bronaugh was raised in Petersburg, Virginia, and earned her bachelor’s degree in education from James Madison University, before completing her master’s degree and doctorate in vocational education from Virginia Tech. She has also served as the first Black woman commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Under secretary for rural development Xochitl Torres Small has been nominated to succeed Bronaugh, whom the USDA appointed as deputy secretary in May 2021.