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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

New Jersey Black Women's History Month Part III: Wynona Moore Lipman, the Original Steel Magnolia

New Jersey's Wynona Moore Lipman was known as the original Steel Magnolia throughout the NJ legislature and was the first Black woman elected as a New Jersey Senator. Born in 1923 in Georgia as Wynona Moore, but settling when an adult in New Jersey, she acted with calm reserve but never backed down from a political battle for just causes, which earned her her reputation as the "Steel Magnolia". She held ranking positions on important Senate committees, including the budget and appropriations committees and those dealing with a broad range of human services. She is distinguished as being the longest-serving member of the Senate, serving nine terms representing the 29th Legislative District. She was an out spoken advocate in particular for protection for women and children.

Wynona Moore married Matthew Lipman in a small civil service. Wynona Moore crossed racial and religious divides to marry the person she wanted to be with and believed she had the right to marry, Matthew Lipman, who was both white and Jewish. Georgia, her home state, as well as fifteen other states, had laws in effect at that time against interracial marriage and miscegenation. At the time Wynona Moore married Matthew Lipman, they could not have lived legally in Georgia until 1967, when the Supreme Court at last deemed anti-miscegenation and interracial marriage laws to be unconstitutional in the landmark case, Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)

At the age of 49, in 1971, Wynona Lipman began on a new life journey when she became New Jersey's first Black woman state senator, entering New Jersey's Senate with goals of instituting major changes for social justice despite the fact that the incumbent whom she had narrowly defeated was aggressively challenging her election. Lipman, by winning a state Senate seat by defeating an incumbent, accomplished an unusual event, a political master feat, in New Jersey. What made this further difficult for her was that New Jersey was undergoing political turmoil as different political interests struggled to find a redistricting plan that would comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating "one man, one vote." Unfortunately for her, the district lines within NJ were re-drawn to eliminate Lipman's district. To run for a seat in the 29th district during the next Senate election, Lipman had to move from Montclair, where she had lived for two decades, to Newark.

Her time in the NJ Senate was not an easy path for her. For years she was the only woman in the Senate and the only Black Senator and would refer to the NJ Senate as a ''Men's Club''.  She encountered extreme racism and sexism while working in the Senate as chronicled by LSNJ. Her district was drastically altered by redistricting, yet she was able to win re-election. She was undaunted when meeting resistance to her out-spoken beliefs and progressive ideas, and as she told another black female Senator, " Don't worry, there is more than one way to skin a cat."

Senator Lipman was inducted into the New Jersey Equal Justice Library and Archive (NJEJLA) Circle of Honor in 2017.

During her 27 years on the Senate she authored and advocated for legislation for the causes to help women, minority groups, children and she sponsored legislation that expanded state contracts for under-represented business owners. One bill she sponsored which became law increased penalties for adults who patronize under-age prostitutes. Lipman authored tough domestic violence laws and broadened the statutes on domestic violence to protect a wider range of victims and increase services to the children from families in trouble. She helped create the NJ State Commission on Sex Discrimination. She sat on the Governor's Council on AIDS, the Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect and the New Jersey Court Team on Domestic Violence.

 "If you want to create change, don't just get to know important people, become important people."

Wynona Moore Lipman acted and spoke as a sage both in politics and in her private life. Until her death in 1999, she would counsel black youths, "If you want to create change, don't just get to know important people, become important people." She proved herself to be a savvy politician, able to set her own ego aside to build successful voting coalitions out of unlikely allies in order to fulfill her legislative goals. She succeeded in securing passage of over 145 bills.

If You Are Thinking of Simply Resigning

If you are thinking of simply resigning because of race discrimination in your workplace and/or because you notified your employer about racial harassment and no action was taken, you should contact an attorney experienced in employment law before you do so, to explore your legal options in the safest way for you.

What You Can Do

I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in successfully representing persons who were subjected to racial harassment and retaliation in the workplace and/or were fired. If you have experienced racism at work, or if you reported it and no action was taken, if you are thinking of resigning, or think you will be fired, or have been fired, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in discrimination.

If you are being subjected to workplace discrimination, contact Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law today for a free consultation.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout New Jersey, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in southern, central, western and northern NJ to meet with clients.

 

 



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