Minnesota county's first black commissioner takes oath using 'The New Jim Crow'

The first African-American elected to serve as a commissioner for Hennepin County, Minnesota, was sworn in using a copy of the “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” by Michelle Alexander, a best-selling book that examines how mass incarceration has devastated the black community.

“The choice of 'The New Jim Crow' was an intentional pick for this historic moment," Angela Conley said in a statement to The Hill. "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."

"These institutions must be held accountable to this and the devastating effects they have had on people of color," she added. "This is why, as the first Black county commissioner in the 166th year history of the Hennepin County Board, I chose this book." 

In representing the county’s fourth district, Conley will be representing parts of Minneapolis, according to The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Conley was sworn in on Monday by retired Hennepin County District Judge Pamela Alexander, who became the first African-American judge in the county nearly four decades ago.

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Conley reportedly cited her own experiences receiving public assistance from the county roughly 20 years ago in propelling her into a career in public service.

She met with thousands of local residents during her campaign who she said “trusted me with their vote,” the Star Tribune reported. 

“We fought hard and did it with joy,” she said, according to the local newspaper. “This seat belongs to the people who look like me and have traditionally been shut out of this room.” 

The move comes several months after Mariah Parker, a then-26-year-old doctoral student who was elected to be Athens-Clarke County Commissioner, took her oath of office in June holding her hand to a copy of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”

— Updated 1:54 p.m.