The great-granddaughter of slaves, Dr Ruth Coles Harris was the first African-American woman in Virginia, USA, to be certified as a public accountant

After graduating at the top of her class at Virginia State University, Dr Ruth Coles Harris had to leave the state to continue her further education as she was an African-American woman living in the age of Jim Crow. She earned an MBA from New York University in 1949 and later passed the Certified Public Accountant exam in 1962. At the time, there were fewer than 100 African-American CPAs in the country.

In 1998, Dr Harris was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of her many contributions to her field. She was also among eight women recognised at the 2015 Virginia Women in History program.  

The photo above shows Dr Harris on the right-hand side at her graduation.

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This is part of our year-long #ICB100Women Campaign honouring 100 influential and inspiring women bookkeepers, to celebrate the suffrage centenary.