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An intellectual and political biography of Nebraska State Senator Ernest Chambers: Activist, statesman, and humanist. Part I. 1937--1988

Tekla (Agbala) Ali Johnson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation constitutes a biography of Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers, a guardian of human rights in Nebraska for over thirty-five years. ^ As a member of the African American community of North Omaha, Chambers grew up observing first hand police abuse of African American citizens. In 1969, the year before he was elected to the Nebraska Legislature, Vivian Strong, a fourteen-year-old girl, was shot in the back of the head by a police officer. The Euro-American police officer who fired the gun said he had mistakenly thought the girl was involved in a robbery. Chambers spoke at an outdoor demonstration when the officer, scarcely disciplined, was allowed to return to work. Fighting unjustifiable police homicides of African people would remain a struggle throughout Chambers thirty plus years in office. To combat police killings of citizens, Chambers successfully sponsored legislation requiring an increase in training for peace officers, and a bill requiring the assemblage of a grand jury in cases involving the death of a person while in police custody or in any jail or correctional facility. ^ The death penalty, the furthest extension of police power, has also disproportionately fallen on African Americans and, as a result, has been the target of an annual effort by Senator Chambers to prohibit its use in Nebraska. Chambers' legislation against the death penalty includes banning the death penalty for persons under eighteen-years-old and prohibiting executions of the mentally retarded. Chambers has also sponsored legislation requiring reviews of homicide cases by the Nebraska Supreme Court to insure that sentences are not handed down arbitrarily, but are similarly imposed throughout the state. ^ Chambers, along with co-sponsor Steve Fowler, led the nation in sponsoring successful legislation for divestiture of state funds from apartheid South Africa. Chambers' sponsored legislation and political activism provides a testimony to his local and international struggle for human rights. ^

Subject Area

Biography|History, Black|History, United States|Political Science, General

Recommended Citation

Johnson, Tekla (Agbala) Ali, "An intellectual and political biography of Nebraska State Senator Ernest Chambers: Activist, statesman, and humanist. Part I. 1937--1988" (2005). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3176787.