By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The passage of time deprives us of the wisdom and experience of previous generations. All of the World War I veterans we remember from our youth have passed on and there are fewer and fewer remaining World War II veterans. Similarly the ranks of the veterans of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s are getting thinner. It is important to save as much of that history as is possible so future generations can benefit from that knowledge.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) from Virginia and Representatives John Lewis (D) from Georgia, Terri Sewell (D) from Selma and Martha Roby (R) from Montgomery announced the launch of the House Historian’s new website: The House and Selma: Bridging History and Memory. This is part of an effort to preserve historic testimonies from Members of Congress about their contributions to the civil rights movement.
Leader Cantor said, “Forty-eight years ago, John Lewis courageously led hundreds of marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Faced with incredible adversity, these men and women led the fight for freedom and equality for all. Today, we honor their sacrifices and reflect on ways in which together we can confront current challenges. The ongoing effort by the House to capture these important moments in the civil rights movement will preserve this transformative period in American history for generations to come.”
Representative Sewell said, “As a Selma native, I know that the journey I now take as Alabama’s first black Congresswoman was made possible by the courage of the freedom fighters, like Rep. John Lewis, who fought for the right to vote on the Edmund Pettus Bridge forty-eight years ago. 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. I look forward to the collection of these oral histories which will enrich and expand the historic record of this transformative period in American history.”
Representative Roby said, “I’m proud to join Leader Cantor, Congressman Lewis and Congresswoman Sewell in honoring the legacy of those who endured unthinkable brutality to fight injustice on that bridge 48 years ago. This project uses special documents, images and oral history to tell the Selma to Montgomery story from a unique perspective. By preserving this important history we can help future generations, including my children, appreciate the stories of sacrifice from the civil rights struggle and understand the lessons that were learned.”
Representative Lewis said, “Today, we pay tribute to 600 peaceful, non-violent protesters who had the courage to stand up for human dignity. Just forty-eight years ago, these brave participants in the civil rights movement had to face state-sponsored brutality just to simply register and vote. 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. That is why we must not take the right for vote to granted, and we must remain committed to push back the tide of injustice wherever it wells up in our society.”
Last year, the House of Representatives passed H.Res. 562, co-sponsored by Congresswomen Sewell and Roby, directing the Office of the House Historian to compile accounts from current and former Members of Congress who participated in historic civil rights moments, the Selma to Montgomery marches, and annual Congressional pilgrimages to Alabama.
The annual Civil Rights pilgrimage to Selma was held late last month. Vice President Joe Biden (D) led a delegation of Congressmen to the site where Civil Rights marchers were violently attacked and repulsed by segregationists in 1965 in an attempt to march to Montgomery. Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights leaders came to Alabama to resume that march drawing national and international attention to the Civil Right issues in the state.
Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. Congresswoman Terri Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District. Both women are serving in their Second term in the U.S. House of Representatives.