In recognition of the 51st anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) will participate in a series of events during the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee 2016, to be held March 3-7 in locations throughout Selma, Alabama. The Jubilee is an annual event commemorating “Bloody Sunday,” which occurred 51 years ago, when Alabama state troopers brutally assaulted 600 unarmed men, women, and children, who peacefully attempted to march 54-miles to Montgomery to draw national attention to their fight to participate equally in the political process.  

This year’s Jubilee occurs against the backdrop of the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, which LDF litigated. For nearly 50 years, Section 5 required certain jurisdictions, like Alabama, with a history of racial discrimination in voting, to preclear all voting changes with the federal government before their implementation to ensure that those voting changes did not harm Black and other minority communities. The Court held the animating provision of Section 5 unconstitutional.

“It is an honor to continue the tradition of underscoring the importance and heritage of the Voting Rights Act, a legislative landmark in justice and political participation, by partaking in this event,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel. “However, the Jubilee’s activities are also a time to recognize the struggles that were the impetus behind the Act’s passage, and a sobering occasion to spotlight the current status of the Voting Rights Act, a key provision of which — dismayingly — was rendered inoperable by the Shelby decision.”

LDF will be participating in Jubilee activities on the following dates and times:

  • (March 4, 7:00-9:00 p.m.) State of Black Voting Rights on the Eve of the 2016 Presidential Election, a public conversation, including LDF staff attorneys, which will be held at the Dallas County Courthouse in Selma hosted by radio personality, Mark Thompson
  • (March 5, 3:00-4:00 p.m.) VRA@51 Unity Reception, which will be hosted by LDF at the Brown Chapel AME
  • (March 5, 4:00-5:00 p.m.) The First Presidential Election in 50 Years Without A Core Protection of the Voting Rights Act, a voting rights panel, also to be hosted by LDF, which will be held at the Brown Chapel AME; the panel will include LDF lawyers and special guests, including Jerome Gray, a civil rights activist, and Francys Johnson, State President of the Georgia NAACP
  • (March 5, 7:00-10:00 p.m.) Freedom Flame Awards Gala, which will be held at Wallace Community College Selma 
  • (March 6, 9:30am-1:00 p.m.) The Brown Chapel AME Church Service, at which Ifill will give remarks
  • (March 6, 1:30-4:00 p.m.) Pre-March Rally, Bridge Crossing Re-Enactment & Backward March, and Post March Rally, which will begin at the Brown Chapel AME and end at the Edmund Pettus Bridge

Sponsors for the Jubilee include, among others: LDF; the Alabama State Conference NAACP; the Magic City Bar Association; the Alabama New South Coalition; the National Voting Rights Institute and Museum; the Greater Birmingham Ministries; and the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, the nonprofit organization that originated the Jubilee.  

“As we move past the more-than-half-century mark in the history of the Voting Rights Act, we must reinforce the need for Congress to act where the judiciary has failed,” said Leah Aden, Assistant Counsel at LDF. “This year’s presidential election could prove to be one of the most significant in recent memory. The full force of the Voting Rights act must be restored for our country to have a truly robust, meaningful and inclusive democracy.”    

To see a complete schedule of events for the Jubilee, click here

To read about LDF’s work in promoting political participation, click here

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Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.


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