Fifty-eight years ago, six hundred brave souls set out from Selma, Alabama to secure one of our most sacred freedoms: the right to vote. On the Edmund Pettus Bridge, their peaceful march was met with crushing violence. The late congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis, then only twenty-five, was beaten and suffered a fractured skull. Those brave marchers were pushed back, but they continued to march forward.
Their courage and their sacrifice inspired many to join the fight for civil rights—to put an end to poll taxes, literacy tests, and other forms of discrimination that blocked Black Americans’ access to the ballot box. They achieved passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which enshrined critical protections for voting rights in federal law.
However, in 2013, the Shelby County Supreme Court decision weakened the Voting Rights Act, making it harder to protect against discrimination. As a result, in recent years, America has seen a new assault on the freedom to vote. Extremists have worked to dismantle the voting protections that generations of civil rights leaders and advocates fought tirelessly to win. They have purged voters from the rolls. They have closed polling places. They have made it a crime to give water to people standing in line.
We must redouble our efforts and renew our commitment to protecting the freedom to vote. President Joe Biden and I continue to call on Congress to pass federal legislation that protects voting rights, election integrity, and our democracy. And we will continue to implement the President’s Executive Order on Promoting Access to Voting, which enhances the federal government’s efforts to advance voter participation.
If we are to truly honor the legacy of those who marched in Selma on Bloody Sunday, we must continue to fight to secure and safeguard the freedom to vote.
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