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Civil Rights Movement Evoked in Atlanta

Participants recall perilous voter registration drives of 1960s

By Mary Silver
Epoch Times Staff
Created: September 25, 2012 Last Updated: September 25, 2012
Related articles: United States » South
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Southern Christian Leadership Conference President C. T. Vivian, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), Rep. David Scott (D-Ga), and League of Women Voters of Georgia President Elizabeth Poythress descend the state Capitol steps to march to the Fulton County Voter Registrar's office. (Mary Silver/Epoch Times)

Southern Christian Leadership Conference President C. T. Vivian, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), Rep. David Scott (D-Ga), and League of Women Voters of Georgia President Elizabeth Poythress descend the state Capitol steps to march to the Fulton County Voter Registrar's office. (Mary Silver/Epoch Times)

ATLANTA—Former Freedom Riders U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and 88–year–old Southern Christian Leadership Conference President C. T. Vivian strode down Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, leading a loud, chanting, singing crowd. A burly white man parked his big American car, adorned with a Romney–Ryan sticker. He emerged, waved, and called to Lewis, “ Hi, John! I love you!”

Lewis replied, “I love you too, my brother.” 

Things took on a special flavor here.

Lewis and Vivian were marking the first National Voter Registration Day, joining Georgia Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and David Scott (D-Ga.) and representatives from the League of Women Voters, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, and others.

On the steps of the state capitol, Lewis said what he often does, “The right to vote is precious, almost sacred.”

Lewis compared the 34 state voter ID laws to the barriers to voting he met in his youth in Alabama, such as literacy tests and being asked to estimate the number of jelly beans in a jar.

“What would happen if members of Congress—maybe even the president of the United State—showed up at a polling place without an ID? Would they be denied the right to vote?” asked Lewis. 

“We must eliminate every barrier and impediment to the electoral process to make voting fair, accessible, and an accurate representation of the will of the people,” said Lewis. 

In an interview after the march, Lewis said that he plans to reintroduce his Voter Empowerment Act in next year’s Congress. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will sponsor a version of it in the Senate this week. The legislation would federalize voting laws and registration deadlines. 

“We must eliminate every barrier and impediment to the electoral process to make voting fair, accessible, and an accurate representation of the will of the people.”

—John Lewis, congressman (D-Ga.)

Lewis told the crowd, “Jimmy Carter said it once, ‘It should be easy to vote, as simple and easy as getting a glass of water.’”

“We’re just going to talk a little while here, and then we’re going to walk,” said Lewis. “That’s it, that’s it!” cried several in the crowd.

Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) listed abolitionists and civil rights movement martyrs, from Frederick Douglass to James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.

He said, “All of these white and black people who gave their lives so we could vote. For goodness’s sake, don’t let Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King down. They are looking down from heaven on us, so get out there and vote!” Several people shouted in answer, “That’s right!”

Gus Dixon arrived early and stood near the podium with a video camera so that he could record the event for his six grandchildren. The Tuskegee Institute alumnus passes on the tradition of civic engagement by taking the children with him to the polls.

”The greatest thing is seeing them grow up, when you go into [polling] places and understand the freedom. They love the voting machines,” he said.

The crowd followed Lewis, Vivian, Scott, and Johnson to the Fulton County Voter Registrar’s office, where interim elections chief Sharon Mitchell described the county’s services of mobile free voter ID vans and printed sample ballots for those who are not tech-savvy and sample ballot apps for smartphone users.

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  • Cheryl Blair

    This white idolizing Black mortifying religious indoctrination process was used to make the African slaves more loyal to their masters. From the perspective of the slave masters, it made them better slaves. This conditioning has been left
    uncorrected and un-removed for generations.
    The effects of that brain washing scheme initially implemented more than four hundred years ago still continues upon the mind of millions of African Americans today. It is for this reason why it is not uncommon to visit a church with an entire Black congregation and find its walls stubbornly adorned with only pictures of white deities. The effects of that mental conditioning program have continued through many generational lines. These white deities are now so indoctrinated upon the minds, souls, and hearts of Black people that most will now angrily defend preferring them saying that the color of their deities are of no matter nor relevance. But given that this same group is often psychologically incapable of accepting Black depictions of their deities proves that color is of relevance-just as long as it remains white. For some Blacks it is so immense that they literally feel offended and a disdain towards Black depiction of their sacred deities. Are you guys ever going to address this issue or are you going to continue to go along to get along?


   

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