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Ellison, Keith M. (1963- )


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Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison was born on August 4, 1963 in Detroit, Michigan.  He was raised Catholic in a middle class family which included five sons to a father who was a psychiatrist and a mother who was a social worker.  Since childhood Ellison was involved with the civil rights movement and briefly worked with his grandfather in Louisiana for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In 1981 Ellison graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy.  Six years later he graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit with a B.A. in economics.  While attending Wayne State University, Ellison converted from Catholicism to Islam.  After graduation Ellison attended the University of Minnesota Law School, graduating in 1990.

Ellison began his professional career at the Minneapolis law firm of Lindquist and Vennum.  He worked there for three years as a litigator specializing in criminal defense, civil rights, and employment.  After leaving Lindquist and Vennum Ellison he became executive director of the nonprofit Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis.  He then returned to private practice by joining Hassan & Reed where he specialized in trial practice.

In 2002 Keith Ellison was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, representing District 58B.  He ran under the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party banner. Four years later, in 2006 Ellison ran for Minnesota’s Fifth District Congressional Seat as a Democrat which he continues to hold.  With his 2006 election, Ellison became the first Muslim to be elected to the United States Congress.

Ellison was appointed to the Financial Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee.  While in Congress Ellison has been a strong opponent of the Iraq War and has supported efforts to impeach President George Bush for his handling of the conflict.  Ellison is a proponent of immigration reform and an advocate of privacy concerns for those who use the Internet.  As Congress’s only Muslim representative he quickly became one of the principal advocates for civil rights protections for Muslim women and men across the nation in the aftermath of the 911 attacks. 


Martiga Lohn, “Islamic Convert Wins House Nomination,” The Associated Press, September 14, 2006; Frederic J. Frommer, “Rep. Ellison Wants Forces Out of Iraq,” The Associated Press, January 10, 2007; Congressional Biography:


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