Norton to Honor Civil Rights Activists at White House Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony, Today

Nov 24, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today will attend a White House ceremony honoring nineteen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, including a posthumous award to three student civil rights activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were killed in Mississippi during the 1964 Freedom Summer.  Norton, who spent her time in the Civil Rights Movement often in Mississippi, had pressed the White House to honor the three students with the award.

“The legacy of these three brave young men is ingrained into the 1964 Civil Rights Act itself,” Norton said.  “This 50th anniversary of the 1964 Freedom Summer seemed to me, and many of my colleagues, to be the appropriate time to honor the civil rights workers, who gave their lives to the notion of equal rights for every American.”

Norton honored these three men when she managed a bill in the 111th Congress, which was signed into law, to name the Federal Bureau of Investigation field office in Jackson, Mississippi for Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner. 

As a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Norton helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and then helped write the brief to the 1964 Democratic Convention for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to replace the segregated Mississippi Democratic Party and ran the lobbying in Atlantic City to win the votes of other delegations to replace the segregated Mississippi delegation.  Less than 15 years later, President Jimmy Carter made Norton the first woman to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where she enforced Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, barring job discrimination.