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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

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Norton to Moderate Plenary Panel at the Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary Conference at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, Saturday

Jun 27, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) will moderate a plenary panel at the Freedom Summer 50th Anniversary Conference at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi on Saturday, June 28, 2014.  The panel, entitled “Our Southern Strategy: Where Do We Go from Here,” will focus on the role that the South plays in changing the way that democracy applies to all citizens in the United States.  The panel will include fellow congressional members: G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), and Bennie Thompson (D-MS).  Tougaloo College was crucial to the Civil Rights Movement, a safe haven for many activists and a gathering place for the leaders of the Movement.  The panel is part of the weeklong Freedom Summer 50th anniversary intergenerational conference.  Danny Glover; Julian Bond; Dick Gregory; Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund; and Ben Jealous, former President and CEO of the NAACP, are among the participants.

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer of 1964, when thousands of students and civil rights leaders traveled to Mississippi to help register African Americans to vote and three student activists, James Chaney of Mississippi and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner of New York, were killed.  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.

“Fifty years ago, there were only five African Americans in Congress and no one on Saturday’s panel could have been among them,” Norton said.  “Norton and the three southerners on the panel could not have been in Congress because most African Americans could not vote and D.C. had neither a home-rule local government nor a Member of Congress.  Our panel will recognize fifty years of undeniable progress but as Members of Congress we are too close to the many challenges of our constituents and our country to live in the past.  These southern Members are in the thick of these challenges—from new obstacles to the right to vote and to the worst poverty and income inequality in the country.”

Published: June 27, 2014