Vice President Kamala Harris to visit Alabama as nations mark watershed moment in fight for suffrage
SELMA, Ala. — Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Alabama on Sunday as the nation marks a watershed moment in the fight for the right to vote, a trip that comes as Congress’ efforts to restore the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act vote failed.
Harris is traveling to Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 57th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the day in 1965 when white state troopers attacked black suffrage marchers attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The nation’s first female vice president — as well as the first African American and Indian American to hold that position — will speak at the site often referred to as hallowed ground in the fight for minority citizens’ suffrage.
On March 7, 1965, state troopers beat and gassed peaceful protesters, including young activist John Lewis, who later became a longtime Georgia congressman. he images of the violence shocked a nation and helped galvanize support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
His visit to the city that served as the birthplace of the Voting Rights Act comes as Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to update the landmark law and pass additional measures to make voting more convenient for people. .
The legislation, named after Lewis who died in 2020, is part of a larger election package that collapsed in the US Senate in February.
Visiting Alabama on a pilgrimage to Congress that coincides with the anniversary, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he hopes a compromise might still be able to save the voting rights bill named for Lewis.
“The John Lewis Bill means a lot to us because so many of us worked together on the Bill, with John being the leader and the inspiration,” Hoyer said in an interview in Birmingham on Friday.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted part of the 1965 law that required some states with a history of voting discrimination, primarily in the South, to seek approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before proceeding. change the way they organize elections.
Proponents of ending preclearance have said the requirement – although necessary in the 1960s – is no longer necessary. Voting rights activists have warned that the end of preclearance is encouraging states to adopt a new wave of voting restrictions.
President Joe Biden used a small part of his State of the Union address to renew his call for Congress to act.
“The most fundamental right in America is the right to vote – and to make it count. And it is under attack. State after state, new laws have been passed, not just to suppress the vote, but to overturn entire elections” , Biden said.
The sweeping legislation called Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act would reinstate the preclearance requirement and national standards for the operation of elections — such as making Election Day a holiday and allowing early voting nationwide — would establish rules for redistricting criteria.
The annual Bloody Sunday commemoration has become a regular stop for politicians to pay tribute to the foot soldiers of the civil rights movement and issue calls for action.
Harris will visit civil rights leaders before speaking at the foot of the bridge. The bridge, named after a Confederate general and noted leader of the Ku Klux Klan, has become an enduring symbol of the civil rights movement.
Harris will also participate in the annual event’s symbolic march across the bridge.
Several other members of President Joe Biden’s administration will also attend the event, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Administrator of the Michael Regan Environmental Protection Agency.