Invoking the legacy of the bloody assault he endured in Selma, Ala., Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) used the 50th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington to call upon Congress to fix the provisions of the Voting Rights Act invalidated earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote,” he said, referring to the 1965 assault by Alabama state troopers on peaceful marchers, leaving Lewis with a cracked skull and scars visible to this day. “I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us.”
The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated portions of the Voting Rights Act earlier this year, ruling that measures used by the law to determine districts requiring federal scrutiny must be updated by Congress to be constitutionally valid.
Lewis also called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. “It doesn’t make sense that millions of our people are living in the shadows,” he said. “Bring them out into the light and set them on a path to citizenship.”
Lewis was 23 and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when he spoke to the gathered throngs 50 years ago. Of the many speakers that day, Lewis is the only one left alive.
“I’ve come back here again to say that those days, for the most part, are gone,” he said Saturday. “But we have another fight. We must stand up and fight the good fight as we march today. For there are forces, there are people who want to take us back. We can’t go back. We’ve come too far. We want to go forward.”
Watch his speech below.