The Honorable Eva M. Clayton
As the first African-American woman elected to Congress from North Carolina, Eva M. Clayton used her position on the Agriculture Committee to represent the small farmers of her rural district. Greatly influenced by the civil rights movement, Clayton’s political career reflected her interest in advocating for women and African Americans in her district and beyond.
U.S. Representative from North Carolina (November 3, 1992-January 3, 2003)
Elected to the House in 1992—dubbed the “Year of the Woman” because of the record number of female candidates who won seats in the House and Senate—Eva M. Clayton made history as the first African-American woman to represent North Carolina in Congress. Recognized as a leader by her colleagues, Clayton was elected freshman class president. Clayton used her position and access to the White House and congressional leaders to seek assistance for African-American farmers in her district. Throughout her tenure in Congress, Clayton, who represented a rural constituency, served on the Agriculture Committee. In her oral history, she recalls the opposition she faced from her mostly male colleagues on the committee, how she overcame the resistance, and how she learned to thrive in a system grounded in “regular order.”
During her interview, Clayton shares memories of her involvement in the civil rights movement which led to her volunteering for what she describes as a symbolic campaign for Congress in 1968. The experience sparked an interest in politics and public service that helped her secure a House seat more than two decades later. Clayton speaks about the role of race, gender, and age in her congressional career, touching upon memories of the Congressional Black Caucus, the bond she formed with many of her women colleagues and how she, as an African-American grandmother, brought a unique perspective to Congress. Clayton also describes her mother’s influence in defining a major legislative focus: nutrition and combating hunger.
This interviewee appears in the following projects: A Century of Women in Congress, and The Long Struggle for Representation: Oral Histories of African-Americans in Congress.
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Answering the Call to Run for Congress
Only Woman in the Campaign
"The Best for the First"
Women Members Offering Advice
"Reality Set In"
Freshman Class President
Challenging "Regular Order"
A Woman Representative on the Agriculture Committee
Reflecting on the Past
Scrutinizing Women Members
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