Sheila Oliver Becomes N.J.’s First Black Assembly Speaker

Sheila Oliver Becomes N.J.’s First Black Assembly Speaker

Published January 13, 2010

Sheila Oliver was sworn in as New Jersey Assembly Speaker Tuesday afternoon, becoming the first African-American to hold the position in the history of the Garden State.

 "It goes without saying that this is an overwhelming and historic day," Oliver said at the swearing-in ceremony at the Trenton War Memorial near the Statehouse. "I will work very hard every day for the people of New Jersey and I vow to make certain that your faith in me will be rewarded."

 After New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner administered the oath of office, Oliver (D-Essex) received a standing ovation from her colleagues and audience members who filled the auditorium, The Star-Ledger reports.

 Oliver praised other Black women who paved the way for her, including the late Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American female elected to Congress and to run for president of the United States, and Fanny Lou Hamer, a civil rights leader who was not permitted to join the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City in 1964, according to the Star-Ledger.

 "She did not take this sitting down," Oliver said, who recalled watching the convention coverage. "Her words reached a young girl sitting in her Essex County living room."

 Oliver succeeds former Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden), who retired as of noon today, when the 213th Legislature expired. She will lead the 80-seat lower house.

 In formally nominating Oliver for Speaker, Assemblywoman Nellie Pou (D-Passaic) predicted Oliver would "make history throughout her tenure."

"Her achievement is a celebration of our diversity," Pou said.

Written by <P>By BET.com Staff</P>

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