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Activist shares new book

Mills College Weekly

Eleanor Holmes Norton, congresswoman for the District of Colombia visited on March 27 and spoke about her beliefs and her new biography, Fire in My Soul, at the Mills chapel.

Norton is in her sixth term in the House of Representatives where she is known to be an avid fighter for social justice.

Prior to her terms in Congress, Norton had already established herself as a vibrant and active individual; she was a feminist and civil rights leader, appointed by president Jimmy Carter as the first woman to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and a tenured professor of law at Georgetown University.

In addition to her career for the state, she has also been a board member of three Fortune 500 companies and a board member of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Norton is currently touring for her first book, Fire In My Soul, with her biographer and long time friend, Joan Steinau Lester. Norton spoke to the audience about her activism and her work.

As a child, Norton said that a fire was lit inspiring her to become politically active.

“It’s as a child growing up in D.C. going to segregated schools… It’s witnessing my black cousins going to fight in WWII- a war of racism. It’s any notion of irony, that puts a fire in your soul,” said Norton.

Growing up during the civil rights era, Norton immersed herself in the movement. While attending Yale law school during the early 1960s, Norton traveled to Mississippi to work with civil rights activist Medgar Evers.

After arriving in Mississippi, Norton was dropped off by Evers at the center where she would be working with him.

Within hours, Evers was assassinated and other activists were arrested. Norton took the initiative and called the head of police of one station and said, “I’m from Yale Law school and you better tell the station that I’m coming down to pick up the people you arrested.”

Being a young black female did not stop Norton from demanding the release of her fellow activists in the hotly racist Mississippi.

It is this same drive for equal opportunity during the civil rights movement that’s evident today in Norton’s current national campaign for residents of District of Columbia to have full representation in Congress.

Norton informed the audience that although residents pay federal tax and are recruited for war like any other resident in other states, they are not properly represented in Congress.

“We need full democracy for the residents of the nation’s capitol,” said Norton. “You’re obligated to help liberate the people of your own nation’s capitol. No taxation without representation.”

After her closing statements of her latest campaign, Norton opened the floor for questions. Norton was asked how she felt about affirmative action.

“We never admitted students by the numbers,” said Norton. “The standard of this country is always diversity. “

After questions, Norton and Lester stayed to sign books. Some audience members left feeling inspired and awed by Norton.

“She brilliant, she’s a hero,” said sophomore Laura Brezney from District of Columbia, “D.C. is a great place and she represents it.”