Carrying On the Social Justice Torch for Voting Rights



51 years ago, on June 21, 1964, civil rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael “Mickey” Schwerner were abducted in Neshoba County, Mississippi and murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner had been in Mississippi preparing and registering African Americans to vote as part of Freedom Summer. The three men were executed on the side of a dark road in Mississippi, and it took 44 days for their bodies to be found. Their deaths fueled support of the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, an Act that we are trying to strengthen and support again today.

As we celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision which grants full marriage equality to our LGBT brothers and sisters, we must remember those whose work and sacrifice allowed us to make achievements to expand freedom. As Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his opinion, we are “a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations,” and “when a new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.” (maybe link to full text?)

As we saw in Charleston, South Carolina just last week, racial bias and violent hate crimes still plague our country today and these issues need to be addressed. As our country works to heal from the tragedy of last week, we need to remember the lives of so many others, like Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, who died fighting for a more just and equal place for all.

Today we remember that our work, and the work of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, is still not complete. Even 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was signed, countless Americans are facing obstacles to voting, including complex voter ID laws, shortened early voting periods and other discriminatory measures that make it more difficult for minorities, the elderly and people of color to vote. As Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner knew then, and we know today, “you are not obligated to complete the work but neither are you free to desist from it” (Pirkei Avot). In honor of these three men, the 9 victims of the Charleston massacre and the countless others, we must each listen to the words of Pirkei Avot and find our own ways to engage in the work for a more just world.

Yesterday, members of the RAC staff joined hundreds of voting rights advocates and activists in Roanoke, VA to call for a restoration of the VRA. Today, I hope you will join us in this fight for voting rights and honor the memories of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner by urging your member of Congress to protect and restore voting rights.

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About Claire Shimberg

Claire Shimberg is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. She graduated in 2014 from the University of Pennsylvania and is originally from Tampa, FL where she is a member of Congregation Schaarai Zedek.

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  1. Voting Matters, Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall | Fresh Updates from RACFresh Updates from RAC - July 9, 2015

    […] us of the sacrifice and hard work that went into the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Countless Americans face complications and restrictions as they attempt to make their voices heard at the ballot box. These restrictions must fuel our […]

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