WCGMF Discovery

Elizabeth Horton Sheff, Lead Plaintiff, Sheff versus O’Neill

I was born in Hartford, CT; raised in Charter Oak Terrace, public housing formerly located on the Southwest corner of Hartford, now commonly referred to as the Wal-Mart Plaza.  My mother, Frances Horton, raised my sisters and me with a healthy balance of love and discipline that afforded us a sound character foundation. Frances taught us to believe in ourselves and in life’s possibilities. She instilled in us the understanding that everyone holds the responsibility to make the world a better place. I took her teachings to heart.

I am a justice seeker. I have devoted my life to advocacy and activism that included defending the rights of persons who live in public housing, those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS, families marginalized by economic challenges, increasing food security for families, developing housing and services for grandparents raising their grandchildren and quality, integrated public education.

In 1989, my son Milo, then a fourth grade student at Annie Fisher Elementary School in Hartford, and I joined with ten other families and began a long and arduous journey to redress the inequity between the level of education provided to students in Hartford public schools and that available to children in surrounding suburban districts. This journey has become known around the State of Connecticut, and throughout the United States as Sheff vs. O’Neill – a landmark civil rights lawsuit that seeks to prepare all children to live and prosper in a growing racial/ethnic, economically globally connected world. This effort produced the many magnet schools that now exist in the State of Connecticut, as well as other educational reforms.

I served five terms on the Hartford City Council, during one of which I governed as the Council Majority Leader. During my tenure on council some of the projects I championed were Hartford’s “Campaign for Civic Pride,” which resulted in an increase in citizen access to and participation on City Boards and Commissions; presented and helped to pass city ordinances that produced jobs and wealth building opportunities for Hartford residents and businesses in city assisted projects; effort to increase city-wide literary through the “Keep Them Reading” campaign; and community policing through strengthening the city’s Civilian Police Review Board.

I have been blessed with numerous community awards and recognitions, including the “Living the Dream Award” from Two Rivers Magnet Middle School, the “President’s Award of Excellence” from the Cricket Hall of Fame, the “Pioneer Woman of the Year” award from Hartford College for Women, and the “Distinguished Sojourner Truth Award” from Tunxis Community College, Office of Minority Affairs.

I believe in life-long learning – both formal and teachable moments. I am a graduate of the first class of the Hartford Seminary Black Ministries Certificate Program. I hold both an associates and a bachelors’ degree from Charter Oak State College and a Master’s Degree in Education, Educational Technology from the University of Hartford. My ultimate goal is to one day earn a Doctorate in Education.

I serve as the Director of Community Services for the Community Renewal Team (CRT), a human services delivery non-profit in Connecticut. Through my work at CRT I am able to carry on my mother’s legacy to help others help themselves.