Veteran members of the Congressional Black Caucus have made extraordinary contributions to the fight for equal rights for all Americans, but particularly Blacks. Georgia Rep. John Lewis on more than one occasion even risked his life. Younger members, like Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell, the first African-American woman to represent her state, are continuing the tradition of breaking down barriers.
Their voices and ground-breaking experiences, as well as those of others, will be preserved on a new section of the House Historian's web site dedicated to civil rights history launched by House members on March 7.
The first installation is titled "The House and Selma: Bridging History and Memory." It recalls the attempt by civil rights protesters demonstrating for Black voting rights to march across Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. Their journey was aborted when they were brutally attacked by state and local police officers. It also details how that day, now remembered as Bloody Sunday, led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
"Because of their sacrifice, we live in a more fair, more just society today. We must never, ever forget that many people struggled and died trying to register and vote in this country, and that our quest to build a true democracy in America is not done," said Lewis.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who participated with Lewis and Sewell on March 3 in the commemorative march to mark Bloody Sunday's 48th anniversary, said the site will preserve a "transformative period in American history for generations to come."
Sewell, co-sponsor of H. Res. 562, the measure that made the site possible, attributes her ability to represent a state like Alabama, which still bears the scars of its racial past, to the sacrifices and courage of Lewis and other freedom fighters.
"It is important that we honor their legacy by preserving the collective stories and experiences of members of Congress who were instrumental in the struggle for civil rights," she said.
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(Photo: Library of Congress)