At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, civil rights icon and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) described to the Senate his reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate key components of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act earlier this summer. According to Huffington Post, Lewis was one of the first speakers to testify at the hearing.
“The day of the Supreme Court decision broke my heart,” Lewis said. “It made we want to cry. I felt like saying come, come and walk in the shoes of people who tried to register, tried to vote, but did not live to see the passage of the Voting Rights Act.”
Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders and, as the president of the Students’ Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, testified before Congress in 1965 during the writing of the Voting Rights Act. The civil rights pioneer marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was one of the protesters seriously injured by Alabama State Troopers in the notorious Bloody Sunday march into Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965.
The Court, said Lewis, has “sent us back to the drawing table” on the Voting Rights Act. Lewis urged the Senate to work together to create a new formula for determining which states would need pre-clearance from the federal government to change their voting laws or procedures. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his June 25 decision that the previous criteria — outlined in Section 4 of the VRA — were outdated and therefore unconstitutional.
“In a democracy such as ours, the vote is precious, it is almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have. Those who sacrificed everything — their blood and their lives — and generations yet unborn, are all hoping and praying that Congress will rise to the challenge and get it done again,” Lewis said.
Watch video of Lewis’ remarks, embedded below via Huffington Post: