Eleanor Holmes Norton was born on June 13, 1937 in Washington, DC.1 In the late 1950s, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) founder Michael Harrington recruited her into the Young People’s Socialist League, the youth wing of Socialist Party USA. In 1960 Norton graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from Antioch College, where she served as president of the campus’s NAACP chapter. She subsequently earned a master’s degree in American Studies from Yale University in 1963, and an LLB from Yale Law School in 1964.
In the summer of 1963 Norton went to Mississippi to serve as an organizer for the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and in ’64 she worked with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. She also helped organize Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in August 1963. “I was radicalized by the civil rights movement,” Norton told an interviewer many years later.
In 1964-65 Norton worked as law clerk for a Federal District Court judge in Philadelphia. From 1965-70 she was the assistant legal director of the ACLU‘s New York office, and in 1968 she was admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Also in 1968, Norton was a founding member of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, a self-described “militant” organization that provided legal representation for such notables as “the Attica Brothers, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and numerous other committed freedom fighters.” NCBL is allied with the National Lawyers Guild and is a U.S. affiliate of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, a former Soviet front that is still dominated by communists and socialists.
In 1970, New York Mayor John Lindsey appointed Norton to chair the city’s Commission on Human Rights, a position she held until 1977. Norton also served as Lindsey’s executive assistant from 1971-74.
In August 1974, Norton was one of 80+ American leftists who sent a cablegram congratulating the rebels who had recently staged a pro-communist military coup in Portugal and encouraging them to promote “democratic freedoms.”
In 1977, Democratic President Jimmy Carter appointed Norton to chair the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where she worked until 1981. During her tenure with EEOC, Norton warned employers that her office would sue them if their work forces were not racially “balanced.”2
In 1984 Norton served on the Initiating Committee for an American Solidarity Movement, launched by DSA as a vehicle to support labor unions. Additional Committee members included Stanley Aronowitz, Barbara Ehrenreich, Barney Frank, Michael Harrington, Irving Howe, Frances Fox Piven, Gloria Steinem, and others.
In 1988 Norton worked for the presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson, who selected her to represent him in shaping the Democratic National Convention platform. At the time, Ebony magazine described Norton as a “national Democratic Party power broker.”
In 1990 Norton was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a non-voting delegate from the District of Columbia. She has been re-elected every two years since then, always by wide margins, and is a member of both the the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
During Norton’s 1990 campaign, it came to light that she and her husband had paid no federal income taxes since 1981. Norton placed the blame for this transgression entirely on her spouse, and the couple eventually paid $88,000 in back taxes and penalties. The Nortons legally separated just days after the 1990 election, and they divorced in 1993.
Since 1994, Norton has repeatedly introduced the Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act, which would require the United States to “begin the transfer of nuclear weapons funds to urgent domestic needs.”
In the early months of 1996, the national media teemed with stories about an apparent epidemic of racially motivated arsons targeting southern black churches in the United States. A national database search in early July 1996 found that more than 2,200 news articles had recently been written about such incidents. Like many Democrats and leftist commentators, Norton was quick to attribute the fires to “racism.” Characterizing them as “something far more dangerous” than a mere conspiracy, she supported congressional legislation designed to widen federal powers to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes. When the facts were eventually sorted out, however, it became clear that the purported epidemic of black church burnings had been a complete fabrication. As the American Thinker puts it: “Before the propaganda campaign, the number of racially motivated church arsons in the South, a region with a population of over 90 million, was probably less than 10 per year.”
Norton has long been an outspoken opponent of school voucher proposals, whose purpose is to enable low-income parents to move their children out of failing public schools and into private schools. Heavily influencing Norton’s position is the fact that one of her largest campaign contributors has been the American Federation of Teachers, which strongly opposes vouchers.
Another of Norton’s passions is her unwavering support for affirmative action policies. She once bridled at the suggestion that if Martin Luther King were still alive he would oppose such practices. “Stop quoting dead saints,” said Norton.
Asserting in July 2009 that most of the weapons possessed by Mexico’s violent drug cartels had been obtained from sources inside the United States, Norton said that if she herself were Mexican, she “would have been very, very angry at the Big Kahuna in the north that was essentially shipping down arms to kill my people.” Contrary to Norton’s assertion, however, only 17% of all guns recovered from Mexican crime scenes are traceable to America.
In September 2010, Norton sparked controversy when she left a voicemail on a lobbyist’s answering machine making it clear that she expected a financial donation in exchange for her efforts to promote legislation and policies favorable to that lobbyist. To read the text of Norton’s voicemail, click here. For audio of the message, click here.
During a June 2013 appearance on PBS television, Norton celebrated the fact that nonwhites tend heavily to support Democrats in the voting booth. “The growth of the Hispanic population” in Texas, she said, meant that Republicans in that state—whom Norton characterized as “this southern section white party of old men”—“are not long for this world … and they know it.”
When Republican congressman and House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa in 2014 rejected a White House claim that David Simas, director of the Obama administration’s Office of Political Strategy, was not immune to a congressional subpoena ordering him to testify, Norton scolded Issa: “You don’t have a right to know everything in a separation-of-powers government, my friend. That is the difference between a parliamentary government and a separation-of-powers government.”
Norton was outraged by an August 9, 2014 incident where a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed an 18-year-old black male named Michael Brown in an altercation that set off a massive wave of protests alleging an epidemic of police brutality against African Americans. When compelling ballistic, eyewitness, and forensic evidence eventually indicated that Brown in fact had assaulted the officer and had tried to steal his gun just prior to the fatal shooting—and that the narrative of an unarmed victim with his hands raised in surrender was entirely false—Norton nevertheless complained about longstanding “grievances” regarding police mistreatment of “communities of color.” In a Fox News interview, host Sean Hannity asked Norton, “Did you read the evidence in this case?” She replied: “I have not read the transcript because my interest is not in what happened, my interest is in what should happen—where we go forward from here.”
On December 4, 2015 — a few days after Islamic jihadists had murdered 14 people and wounded 31 others in San Bernardino, California — Norton and several fellow Democrats went to the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Virginia to attend a prayer service aimed at discouraging any backlash against Muslim Americans in reaction to the mass killing. Dar al-Hijrah had formerly served as the home of terrorist spiritual leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who mentored two of the 9/11 hijackers. Treasury Department records indicate that the mosque also had acted as a front for Hamas operatives in the United States. And according to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Dar al-Hijrah had come “under numerous investigations for financing and providing aid and comfort” to terrorists and extremists. For example:
When the Daily Caller in February 2018 contacted Norton and a number of her fellow Congressional Black Caucus members to ask if they would be willing to publicly denounce the notorious Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan because of his racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric, Norton was one of 20 who declined not only to denounce him, but also to issue any comment at all regarding his infamous anti-Semitic, anti-white rhetoric.
On April 22, 2021, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted in favor of HR 51, which Norton had introduced, to transform Washington, D.C. into a state. It was a pure party-line vote of 216-208. “Congress has a moral obligation and constitutional authority to pass HR 51,” said Norton.
For additional information on Eleanor Holmes Norton, click here.
1 She took her surname in 1965 when she married Edward Norton, who remained her husband for 28 years.
2 Robert Detlefsen, Civil Rights Under Reagan (pp. 34, 37); Dinesh D’Souza, The End of Racism, p. 222.