On Feb. 12, New Jersey State Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver came to speak to the packed Lenfell Hall at the College at Florham as part of a series of Black History Month events organized by the Black History Month Committee.
Oliver is a Democrat representing the 34th district in the General Assembly and has served as speaker since 2010. She is the first African-American woman, the second African-American and the second woman to hold this position in the state legislature.
According to Tom Hester of New Jersey Newsroom, the last woman speaker was Marion West Higgens in 1965 and the last African-American speaker was the Rev. S. Howard Woodson in 1974 and 1975.
In the past, Oliver served on the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the East Orange Board of Education and attempted a mayoral run in East Orange.
Oliver began her presentation by discussing how the United States has gone from a country that once considered slavery and bondage of another group of people to be socially and legally acceptable to a country that fought to secure the rights of those same people.