Sarah Herbin was born on September 15, 1916, in Concord, North Carolina, the daughter of a minister and a teacher. She graduated from William Penn High School in High Point and went on to study music and English at Bennett College in Greensboro. Herbin did graduate work in music at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor before returning to North Carolina, where she taught English and music in Graham, Siler City, and Greensboro. Following five years in New York City, Herbin moved back to Greensboro and was hired in 1950 as a bookkeeper at Bennett College. In 1953 she accepted a secretarial position with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Four years later she was promoted to director of the organization’s Merit Employment Program. In this position she was responsible for placing blacks in nontraditional jobs.
Herbin remained at the AFSC until 1963, when she accepted a position in the North Carolina Department of Administration as Employment Service Representative. This made Herbin the first Black member of Governor Terry Sanford’s cabinet. At the end of Sanford’s tenure in 1965, she became a grant officer for the North Carolina Fund in Durham. Herbin later moved to Washington, D.C., to work with the Black Child Development Institute, which she helped found in 1969. She established the Greensboro office in 1978. Several awards were presented to Herbin during her lifetime, including the Lewis Hine Award and the Governor’s Community Volunteer Award, both given for service to children. Sarah Herbin died on July 19, 2003 at the age of 86.