This week marks the 47th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches that took place in 1965 in Alabama. The historical event, a cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement, took place in an effort to combat white resistance to Black voter registration in the South.
Fast-forward almost 50 years later and the fight for voting rights is still an ongoing issue. This time, tactics are being used in several Republican-ruled states, including Alabama, to keep people of color away from the polls.
The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network is partnering this week with national organizations, congressional leaders and activists to lead a march from Selma to Montgomery to lead the fight to protect civil and voter rights.
The five-day march will commemorate the historic 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march. It began at the Edmund Pettus Bridge this past Sunday and will end with a rally at the Alabama State Capitol on Friday.
The march is in support of voting rights and will highlight the continuing efforts against voter suppression, including efforts to defeat voter identification laws and reverse anti-immigration laws in the state of Alabama.
This past Sunday, thousands of people participated in a march across the Pettus Bridge during the 19th annual reenactment of the 1965 march.
“The right has geared up to suppress the vote,” Sharpton said at a breakfast at Wallace State Community College. “What was fought for and won in Selma to Montgomery has never had such a frontal attack as today. We need to get back on the streets and fight for what we fought for in 1965.”
Sharpton is broadcasting his show, “PoliticsNation,” on MSNBC from Alabama this week. He participated in a debate on the program with Republican Rep. Jay Love of Alabama, who said voter ID laws in Alabama and other states are needed to deter voter fraud. He said the state will provide free non-driver IDs.
Sharpton responded, “And they have to go and use all kinds of means to come down and try to acquire it.”
Rep. John Lewis, who helped lead the march in 1965 with Martin Luther King Jr., is continuing his own legacy by helping NAN lead the march in 2012. Over a dozen Black and Hispanic members of Congress are supporting the march.
“We come here to reflect,” he said to the crowd this week in Selma. “We come here to be renewed. We come here to be inspired.”
Joining Sharpton arm-in-arm during the reenactment of the march were NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III.
Jealous said that participating in the march was a time to pay homage to those who sacrificed before.
“This week, we are marching from Selma to Montgomery in memory of Jimmy Lee Jackson, who gave his life so all Americans could vote, and to call on the Department of Justice to invalidate all strict voter ID laws so that all may continue to vote,” said Jealous.
“We march because in 2011 and 2012, states have passed more laws to block more Americans from voting than at any point since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965,” he continued.
Reflecting on his experience this week, Jackson said that marching against voter laws in Alabama and other states has just begun and that they will again challenge the nation as actions during the Civil Rights Movement did in the 1960s.
“The march was not a memory of the past but a protest of the present,” he said. “In Alabama, conservatives are moving once more to suppress the vote, part of a concerted effort across the country to make it harder for the poor, the elderly and minorities to vote.”
On Wednesday, marchers continued on with their trek from Selma to Montgomery, making stops at Canaan Hills Primitive Baptist Church and rallying at the Jackson-Steele Community Center. On Thursday night, marchers will rally in Montgomery at St. Jude’s Educational Institute. On Friday, the march’s end, rallies will be held at the Alabama State Capitol and Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church.