Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), issued the following statement regarding the swearing in of Senators Raphael Warnock, Jon Ossoff, and Alex Padilla by Vice President Kamala Harris.
“Yesterday, we witnessed a momentous occasion in the chamber of the United States Senate. Vice President Kamala Harris, who also serves as the Senate president, is the first Black person, first South Asian, and first woman to helm this esteemed legislative body. In her first official duty as Senate president, Vice President Harris administered the oath of office to three senators who are simultaneously carving out historic paths of their own.
“Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church — where the late Martin Luther King, Jr. served as co-pastor for nearly a decade — is the 11th African American to serve in the Senate, and the first-ever African American elected as a senator by Georgia voters. Senator Warnock’s election is especially remarkable when examined in the context of Georgia’s lengthy and harrowing history of perpetuating mistreatment of Black people through segregation, disenfranchisement, and violence.
“Senator Jon Ossoff makes history as the first Jewish person selected by Georgia voters to serve as a U.S. senator. For many, Ossoff’s election offers healing and hope in a state that has a less well-known, but deeply rooted anti-Semitic past, including the lynching of Leo Frank in Marietta, Georgia in 1915. And, in another history-making moment, Senator Alex Padilla became the first Latino senator from California, a state with nearly 40% Latino constituents, filling the seat most recently held by Vice President Harris.
“We congratulate Vice President Harris and Senators Warnock, Ossoff, and Padilla on this groundbreaking occasion, and look forward to working with them and their Senate colleagues on the most imperative issues facing our nation. We call on them to immediately take up and pass legislation addressing critical civil rights issues, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and voting rights and election protection legislation. Following the damaging civil rights rollbacks perpetuated by the previous administration, it is more critical than ever that our legislature take immediate action to restore and further advance these rights in order to protect the lives and welfare of communities of color.”
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization. LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Follow LDF on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.