Born August 4, 1963, in Detroit, Michigan, Keith Ellison became a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2002. In 2006, he moved into the national political arena when he became the first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and the first person of color from Minnesota to serve in Congress. In office, Ellison, a Democrat, has supported stem cell research and raising the minimum wage.
Politician, U.S. congressman and lawyer Keith Ellison was born on August 4, 1963, in Detroit, Michigan. In 2006, Ellison broke new ground as the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress from Minnesota. Raised as a Catholic, Ellison converted to Islam as a college student at Wayne State University.
Early Political Career
Ellison moved to Minnesota in 1987 to attend law school and graduated in 1990. He started his law career with the firm of Lindquist & Vennum before becoming the executive director of the Legal Rights Center. Ellison later returned to private practice.
Besides practicing law, Ellison was active in the community and public service. He hosted a radio program on public affairs for a number of years. Winning election in 2002, Ellison became a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. As a state representative, he served on several committees, including the Local Government and Metropolitan Affairs and supported legislation on education and legal issues.
Only four years later he moved into the national political arena, running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 as the Democratic candidate. Based in part on support from his district's immigrant population, Ellison won the election. With this victory, Ellison became the first Muslim to serve in the U.S. Congress, and the first person of color from Minnesota to be elected as a representative.
In his short time in office, Ellison has supported stem cell research and raising the minimum wage. He also voiced his opposition to President George W. Bush's increase in the number of troops sent to fight the War in Iraq.
Ellison's election was not without controversy. Some critics claimed that he held the same anti-Semitic views as Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, a religious, social, and political organization often known for its radical views. This allegation was based on an article he wrote during law school and his work as an organizer for the 1995 Million Man March, which was created by Farrakhan. Ellison has denied this claim.
Before his swearing-in ceremony, Ellison announced that he would use the Koran, the Muslim holy book, instead of the traditional Bible. He found himself in the middle of a religious firestorm, receiving criticism from conservative politicians and journalists as well as many other American citizens. Ellison did not let the controversy disrupt his plans.
Ellison married Kim Dore in 1987 and together they have four children, Elijah, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Amirah. The couple divorced in 2012.
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