Derek Kilmer

My trip to SelmaMarch 4, 2019

This past weekend, my daughter Sophie and I had the great honor of joining my colleague and friend John Lewis on a civil rights pilgrimage to Alabama. 

Perhaps the most powerful moment of the trip was standing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, hearing Mr. Lewis tell the story of a march he led across that bridge fifty-four years ago.  Their goal that day was to highlight the cause of civil rights – and specifically for the rights of African Americans to vote. The group was stopped on that bridge and met with violence. The marchers were beaten and bloodied — sprayed with tear gas, beaten with clubs, trampled by horses — in their attempt to highlight the importance of one our most basic rights as American citizens: the right to vote.

This tragic event, known as Bloody Sunday, was one of many during the Civil Rights movement that led to the passage of one of the most significant pieces of legislation in the fight for equality: the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Sadly, this progress was undermined in 2013 when the Supreme Court struck down crucial pieces of the Voting Rights Act, eliminating the strongest provisions to prevent racial discrimination in voting laws. And racial discrimination at the ballot box continues – from voter ID laws in North Dakota meant to suppress Native American voters to voter purges targeting African Americans in Georgia.

Four years ago, I joined Congressman Lewis and President Obama on the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday. In President Obama’s remarks, he issued a call to action for those who believe in making progress towards “a more perfect union.” He called on Congress to reauthorize and strengthen the Voting Rights Act.

House Democrats have made this a priority. Last week, we introduced HR 4: the Voting Rights Advancement Act. I am a proud co-sponsor of this bill because it’s past time to put the teeth back into the Voting Rights Act and update our laws for the modern era.

The fight for justice and equality for all continues.  We can’t let up.