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Angie Elizabeth Brooks
First African woman to serve as the President of the United Nations General Assembly
Angie Elizabeth Brooks was a Liberian diplomat and lawyer who became the second woman and the first and only African woman to serve as the President of the United Nations General Assembly.
Angie Brooks was born on August 24, 1928, in Virginia, Montserrado County, Liberia. She was one of the nine children of a back-country minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. She was raised in a foster home in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, as her parents could not support all nine of their children.
Brooks excelled in her studies even though she had limited opportunities. She was a self-taught typist at the age of 11. Brooks started earning money by copying legal documents. After that, she typed for the Treasury Department. Setting her sights on the study of law, she started working as a stenotypist for the Justice Department.
After completing high school, Brooks became a law apprentice under Clarence L. Simpson. Simpson later went on to become foreign minister for Liberia. But she didn't have the money to enrol in a university. With the help of the pastor of her church and persistent appeals to William V.S. Tubman, the President of Liberia, she finally got the money to enrol at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Brooks took various jobs to earn money, from scrubbing floors to washing dishes, where he first experienced discrimination. After graduating in 1949, she studied law at the University of Wisconsin. Later, she also did graduate work in international law from London University.
Brooks returned to Liberia in 1953 and was appointed as a counsellor-at-law to the supreme court. She wanted to inspire women to take up law as a career. So she chose to work in the Justice Department and helped establish a law department at Liberia University. She taught at the university from 1954 to 1958. In 1958, President Tubman appointed Brooks as assistant secretary of state. In the same year, she ran the government for ten days when the President and the secretary of state were out of the country.
Brooks was also interested in Liberia's foreign relations. She started her long association with the United Nations in 1954 when she filled a vacancy on the Liberian delegation at the last minute. It was an unexpected assignment that led to a continuing role as a delegate and several important positions within the UN. Brooks was the first woman and African to serve as President of the Trusteeship Council.
When the UN presidency fell to an African delegate in 1969, Brooks campaigned vigorously for the post. She needed the backing of all the 40 member states from her continent. To gain support, she visited 23 of these countries. When she became the general assembly president, she was only the second woman to serve in this position after Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India.
Brooks' leadership style was combined with charm and shrewd diplomacy. During her stint, she contributed significantly to the United Nations' drive to maintain global peace and security. She also aimed for the advancement of women through the United Nations and the International Federation of Women Lawyers.
Angie Elizabeth Brooks died on September 7, 1928.