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May 30, 1971

Eleanor Holmes Norton, chairman of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, gave the address at Vassar’s 105th Commencement. Telling the 378 graduates “it is a heavy responsibility to have inherited not merely history, but social ferment and change,” she added “your good fortune is already assured for having lived through them.” Women’s rights, Norton declared “is the newest and perhaps most difficult issue confronting you. To change the relationship between men and women is to proceed on as radical a course as has ever been undertaken.”

On the subject of racial equality, she said “The decisiveness of the black experience in your lives goes beyond even philosophy, even tactics, even heroes.” Calling the graduates “the first generation of white Americans to go significantly far in banishing racism from yourselves,” she added, “You are new whites even as we are new blacks.”

The New York Times

The Years