Yesterday, Angela Conley was sworn in as the first black Hennepin County Commissioner in the county’s 166-year history.
Many in her position have chosen to lay their hands on Bibles or Qurans for the oath of office, but Conley chose a book about how the criminal justice system has chipped away at gains made by the civil rights movement: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.
The book has been hailed as a bold and searing text on how branding black people as felons and denying them basic rights only serves to perpetuate a racial class system we thought we did away with when we ended segregation. In a statement to The Hill, Conley said she chose it for a reason.
“We must never forget that the institutions that created and sustained white supremacy and structural racism never intended to include Black people in the decision making process,” she said. “These institutions must be held accountable to this and the devastating effects they had on people of color.”
Conley was sworn in by retired Hennepin County District Judge Pamela Alexander, who, 35 years ago, became the county’s first black judge.