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First Black Woman Picked for Fed Draws GOP Fire Over Research

Lisa Cook’s backers argue she’ll bring a fresh perspective to the central bank, but detractors say her academic work is too focused on race.



Photographer: Brittany Greeson/The New York Times/Redux

With a Ph.D. in economics and experience working at the U.S. Treasury Department and the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, Lisa Cook through one lens looks like a standard nominee to the Federal Reserve Board.

But Cook is not a typical nominee. One of her key pieces of research was on an unusual topic—the role of violence in holding back Black contributions to American innovation—and her career is steeped in first-hand experience in confronting financial and economic breakdowns in emerging markets. Advising the central bank of Rwanda after the East African nation’s devastating 1994 civil war, Cook realized that one source of the crisis was the scarcity of land and the failure of combatants to imagine that it could be made more productive.