For Black History Month – A Remembrance & Reflection

Subtitle: Selma, the Supreme Court, and States’ Rights – “A luta continua”[1]

On March 7, 1965, activists, led by John Lewis[2] and others, set out to march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, the state capital, in a non-violent demonstration in opposition to voter registration discrimination against Black citizens. Still in Selma, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a blockade of state and local law enforcement ordered the marchers to disperse. Refusing the command, they were assaulted by the assembled officials.

A week later,[3] President Lyndon Baines Johnson, to a joint session of Congress, presented legislation – which, on August 6, he would sign into law as the Voting Rights Act (VRA) – saying, in part:

“Even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause, too, because it is not just Negroes but really it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

I pray that “we shall overcome” all vestiges of prejudice. Still, Johnson’s words, “the battle will not be over,” strike within me an equally resonant chord of truth.

On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court issued its decision on Shelby County v. Holder; voting 5-4 to overturn key VRA provisions that required federal oversight and approval of changes in state election laws. The Court split along what some termed “an ideological line.” I call it a chasm; an ever-widening gulf in assessments of the history and current state of race in America.

In the opinion of the Court majority, racial minorities no longer encountered barriers to voting in states with histories of discrimination. In my experience, racism – learned negative perceptions of and projections on another people accompanied by power in the denial of advantages and opportunities – is a consistent element, if not of nature, then, surely, of human nurture. Thus, racism requires constant vigilance to oppose its influence. Siding with the Court minority, I affirm the admonition of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,[4] who likened the revisions to the VRA as “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

Over the years and continuing, countless, seemingly endless are the efforts in a number of states to suppress the right of minority communities to register and to vote.

“A luta continua”

© 2023 PRA

#votingrights #civilrights #suppressionofvotingrights #ShelbyCountyvHolder #TheSupremeCourt #TheVotingRightsAct

[1] Note: “A luta continua,” a Portuguese phrase, translated, “the struggle continues,” originally was a rallying cry of Mozambique’s 1960s-70s independence movement. Over time, it has been employed by a number of activists for a variety of emancipation causes.

[2] John Robert Lewis (1940-2020), civil rights activist; later, United States representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district (1987-2020).

[3] Monday, March 15, 1965

[4] Joan Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020); an associate justice of the Supreme Court (1993-2020)

1 thought on “For Black History Month – A Remembrance & Reflection

  1. Thanks Paul for this great series!! I swear I keep worrying about what rights we will lose next! I hate the feeling of going backwards because I’m used to “carrying on” as you like to tell me. So many people truly don’t want us to carry on though, but I’m holding on to my hope …..



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