Eleanor Holmes Norton – Congresswoman, First Chair of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

          This week we commemorate the March on Washington and the Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” speech that enthralled a nation. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congresswoman from Washington, D.C. helped to organize that march.

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON          Every day Eleanor Holmes Norton serves in Congress she fights a battle to represent her constituents. Although she represents more than 600,000 people in Congress, she does not have a vote because her constituents reside in Washington, D.C. She can vote on the committees where she sits, but that agreement, a hard-fought concession, relies on congressional rules that do not have the force of law and can be re-written at any time.

Congresswoman Norton was born in Washington, D.C. and raised by her father, who was a civil servant, and her schoolteacher mother. After earning her undergraduate degree from Antioch College and a master’s in American studies from Yale, she went to Mississippi. In the summer of 1963, she worked with the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. It was in August of that year that she helped organize the March on Washington.

She completed her law degree at Yale and the following year worked as a law clerk for a Federal District Court judge. She then worked as an assistant legal director for the ACLU in New York. In 1968 she was admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court.

She served as Mayor John Lindsay’s executive assistant and as chairwoman for the New York City Commission on Human Rights. She left New York when President Jimmy Carter appointed her to chair the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Selected by Jesse Jackson, she helped shape the platform at the Democratic National Convention in 1988, and Ebony magazine called her a “national Democratic Party power broker.”

Eleanor Holmes Norton is in her twelfth term as Congresswoman for Washington, D.C. and serves as the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Economic Development. Since 1982 she has been a tenured professor of law at Georgetown University and she serves on a number of public service boards, including boards of civil rights organizations, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Board of Governors of the D.C. Bar Association.

Her voice is strong, as it must be, for her constituents, although they pay taxes, have no vote in Congress. Even decisions of their local government can be overturned by Congress. Eleanor Holmes Norton is their only voice.

LEARN MORE:

READ HER AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY: Fire in My Soul by Joan Steinau Lester, Coretta Scott King and Eleanor Holmes Norton

SEE ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON on “Colbert Nation:” http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/218575/february-11-2009/dc-voting-rights-act—eleanor-holmes-norton

FOR MORE on “District of Columbia Voting Rights:” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/District_of_Columbia_voting_rights

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:

Has your voice ever been raised for others?

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