Yesterday, March 7th, marked the 56th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when over 600 people marched for civil and voting rights and were viciously attacked by state troopers and county police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. This was the first anniversary of Bloody Sunday since the passing of Representative John Lewis, who—at 25 years old—was a leader of the march and sustained serious injuries that day.

Throughout his life and time in Congress, Rep. Lewis continued to fight for the right of every American to be able to vote free from racial discrimination, bringing the convictions and revolutionary vision of the civil rights movement to the highest levels of American government. 

But despite the work of Rep. Lewis and other voting rights champions, many Americans’ voting rights continue to be under attack. Racist gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics still deny people their right to vote or make it unduly hard for them to participate in their democracy.

The progress made by Rep. Lewis and others was further rolled back by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby v. Holder, which significantly weakened the protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA)—making the country more vulnerable to racist voter suppression tactics. Congress now has a chance to restore vital protections from the VRA in the form of H.R. 4, aptly named the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Brent J. Cohen, executive director of Generation Progress, shared the following statement on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the need to pass H.R. 4:

“The racial justice movement has always been led by young Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color. Much like Rep. Lewis and other young activists courageously led the way towards a more equitable future during the civil rights movement, young people today are calling for bold action to end systemic racism and enact solutions to the urgent issues facing our generations. In order to make progress on these issues, we need an inclusive and functional democracy.

Following the November 2020 election, which saw more votes cast than ever before, more than 250 bills have been introduced in 43 states designed to restrict access to the ballot box and strip people of their right to vote. These nefarious actions threaten the bedrock of this nation and undermine the stated ideals upon which it was founded.

It is time for Congress to listen to young leaders in the racial justice movement—and honor the work of Rep. Lewis and other leaders of the civil rights movement—and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.” 

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact eleach@americanprogress.org . 

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