Rep. John Lewis Leads 11th Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama
Washington, DC—Today marks the beginning of the 11th Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama led by civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Ever since the fateful events of Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, Rep. Lewis has returned to Selma, Alabama nearly every year to pay homage. On that day 46 years ago, Lewis and Hosea Williams led several hundred peaceful protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge headed to the state capitol in Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights.
Lewis himself was hit in the head, left bloody and unconscious. Several weeks later, on the third attempt marchers, accompanied by Martin Luther King Jr., his wife Coretta, Andrew Young and others, did march all the way to Montgomery. Ultimately those events led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which banned discriminatory voting practices, such as literacy tests and grandfather clauses, and which still provides voting access for millions of Americans from Eskimos in Alaska, to Latino and Asian voters in urban cities to African Americans, disabled and elderly voters in rural jurisdictions.
Recently, conservative activists have sought to challenge the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act by mounting legal cases pointed toward the U.S. Supreme Court . Their hope is to strike down certain sections of the act that help guard against contemporary efforts to deny voting access to minorities. One such case is scheduled to be heard and perhaps decided this month by the court.
"It is very important," said Rep. John Lewis, " to sensitize members of Congress to the price that was paid by African Americans and others for the right to vote. When they visit Birmingham. Montgomery and Selma, they get a feeling for the perilous struggle we had to undertake to guarantee a right that had already been granted to us by law. If we are not careful, if we are not fully informed of our history, we as a nation can repeat the mistakes of the past by passing laws that disenfranchise citizens of this country today. We have made too much progress to turn back now. This pilgrimage helps to educate lawmakers about the damaging impact of unjust law and the trials and tribulations ordinary people face when they have to right that kind of wrong."
BIRMINGHAM - TODAY
4:45 PM Kelly Ingram Park (following visit to 16th Street Baptist Church
SATURDAY MARCH 5 - MONTGOMERY
10:30 AM Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church
1:00 PM First Baptist Church (photo opportunity)
SUNDAY MARCH 6
9:45 AM Photo Opportunity at Edmund Pettus Bridge
AVAILABLE FOR COMMENT:
Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)
House Democratic Whip, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
House Asst. Democratic Leader, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC)
Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL)
Rep. Spencer Bacchus (R-AL)
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Pilgrimage Leader
Also press can follow The Virtual Pilgrimage at www.faithandpolitics.org/virtualpilgrimage2011.
For more details or to arrange interviews, please contact Burns Strider and/or David Tenbrook.