NAACP Legal Defense Fund Participates in Historic Selma March Anniversary Events, Calls for Renewed Attention to Challenging Discriminatory Voting Laws
The national conversation around voting rights and the Trump administration’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud are at a fever pitch as we honor the 52nd anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” and the historic Selma-to-Montgomery March. That is why it is imperative we continue to pay homage to the 600 unarmed men, women and children who were on the front lines in the fight for voting rights on March 7, 1965 or “Bloody Sunday.” Early in 1965, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference made Selma, Alabama, the focus of its efforts to register Black voters in Alabama. On March 7, protestors attempting to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge on their way from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery were assaulted by Alabama State Troopers wielding whips, nightsticks, and tear gas.
LDF played a pivotal role in ensuring the marchers were able to proceed to Montgomery as planned. LDF and cooperating attorneys Fred Gray, Solomon Seay, Jr., Oscar Adams, Jr., and Demetrius Newton filed a lawsuit against then Alabama Governor George Wallace in a case known as Williams v. Wallace. In that case, U.S. District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson ordered federal protection for a later march attempt. LDF lawyers Jack Greenberg, Norman Amaker, Charles H. Jones, and James Nabrit were subsequently involved in drawing up a safe and secure route from Selma to Montgomery. In honor of their bravery and mission, LDF participated in a series of events during the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee 2017, held March 2-5 in locations throughout Selma, Alabama. LDF also be hosted two special events, including a voting rights panel at the historic Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church.
The monumental civil rights protest in Selma, and LDF’s role in ensuring it was successful, cast much needed media attention on the outright denial of the right to vote to African-Americans and hastened the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As we continue to underscore the importance of this anniversary, this is also a time to recognize the struggles we currently face in the voting rights arena. In 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.
Without this necessary protection, Alabama promptly announced it would enforce a photo ID law in their 2014 elections. In 2015, LDF, Covington & Burling, LLP, and local counsel Herman “Rusty” Johnson, Jr. filed a lawsuit on behalf of Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama NAACP, and four voters to block this racially discriminatory photo ID law. Alabama’s actions in recent years have increased the discriminatory burdens of the photo ID law through DMV closures that made photo IDs less available to voters of color. Alabama has also rejected any suggestions to lessen the law’s negative impact on voters. Recent expert reports submitted by Plaintiffs in the case estimate that over 100,000 registered voters in Alabama lack forms of photo ID that can be used to vote under the photo ID law. Black and Latino voters are nearly twice as likely as white voters to lack such IDs in Alabama. Moreover, in the November 2016 election, at least a thousand Alabama voters had their provisional ballots rejected because of the Photo ID Law. As we pay tribute to the courageous marchers back in 1965, we recommit ourselves to stamping out voter suppression and ensuring that no one else is excluded from the democratic process.
Follow LDF on Facebook and Twitter for scenes from Selma anniversary events and visit our case page for more information on our ongoing challenge to Alabama’s discriminatory photo ID law.
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. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative