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.
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