Rep. John Lewis Leads Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Mississippi and Selma
Tomorrow, on the 49th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, Rep. John Lewis will lead a congressional delegation to civil rights sites in Mississippi and Selma, Alabama. The tour through Mississippi commemorates the Mississippi Freedom Summer project developed by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) 50 years ago. Then Chairman of SNCC, Rep. John Lewis traveled to college campuses throughout the country to encourage students to come to Mississippi during the summer of 1964 to help register voters. Shortly after the summer project began, three civil rights workers were killed--Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner--as they went out to investigate the burning of a church on June 15, 1964.
"This is an important journey," said Rep. John Lewis. "It is important for members of Congress to see what happened and how it happened, for members to witness how people sacrificed and had to give their very lives to register and vote, something that was already promised them by the Constitution by was denied them by immoral laws.
"Hundreds of people were jailed during the Freedom Rides in Mississippi and many people died trying to register voters in the state. Those of us who were jailed in Parchman Penitentary, known as one of the hardest prison farms in the country, emerged with greater resolve than ever before to take on the dangerous challenge of organizing in Mississippi.
"Under the direction of Bob Moses, SNCC set up an office in Greenwood and developed a brilliant strategy to register people to vote. Some of the best organizing of the entire movement occurred there, and that's why the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party had so much strength and why there are more black elected officials in Mississippi than any other state in the country. They continued to use the organizational foundation laid by SNCC."
The pilgrimage will visit the home of Medgar Evers--a World War II veteran and NAACP leader who was killed in front of his home on June 12, 1963. The participants will meet with his wife Myrlie Evers-Williams. They will visit Ruleville--the home town of famed SNCC leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party--Fannie Lou Hamer, as well as the town of Money, where 14-year-old Emmett Till was kidnapped and murdered in 1955. Some historians see the Till murder as the beginning of the modern-day civil rights movement. They will also see Tougaloo College and visit with Mississippi Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. The group will leave Jackson on Sunday morning to attend church services at historic Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama.
Honorary Co-leaders of this pilgrimage are Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS). Reps. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Spencer Bacchus (R-AL) are honorary Co-Chairs of the Alabama leg of the pilgrimage. This year at least 20 members of Congress will attend, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Tim Murphy (D-CT).