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Democratic Senators Demand Answers To Policy Changes To Civil Rights Protections In The Dept of Education

Shaheen, Hassan Join Senate Democrats to Call Out Secretary DeVos for Harmful Actions on Civil Rights Protections, Enforcement 

Betsy DeVos
Image by Gage Skidmore Feb 2017

Senators highlight numerous steps taken by Secretary DeVos to roll back civil rights enforcement and protections for students 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined 33 Senators today in sending a letter to Secretary DeVos citing major concerns with steps the U.S. Department of Education has taken under her leadership to diminish civil rights enforcement for students across the country. The Senators highlight a number of alarming steps Secretary DeVos has taken, including hosting events with anti-LGBTQ hate groups, proposing to slash the budget of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), and scaling back OCR’s civil rights enforcements, among others.

Your testimony in front of Congress, your continued association with groups with records of supporting discrimination, and two memos written by the Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, have reemphasized longstanding concerns about your dedication to the idea that all students, no matter their race, religion, disability, country of origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, have a right to receive an education free from discrimination,” wrote the Senators.

In the letter the Senators continued to press DeVos on her failure to protect transgender students.

“We are also extremely disappointed in the Department’s failure to take actions to protect transgender students.  More than a third of transgender students report being the subject of harassment or bullying in school,[5] sixty percent of transgender youth report being forced to use bathrooms inconsistent with their gender identity,[6] and half of transgender children have seriously contemplated suicide.[7] Despite these shocking statistics, on February 22, 2017, the Department withdrew joint guidance on transgender students’ rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”).

On March 10, six Senators wrote you expressing outrage at that decision and asking how you intend to enforce civil rights protections for transgender students. While you have not yet answered that letter, recent steps by the Department suggest you will not act to protect transgender students. In fact, the Department has already abandoned its defense of some students who have experienced discrimination or harassment by dismissing or closing at least two cases involving transgender students and withdrawing previous findings of discrimination against the school districts.[8] ” 

The Senators are also demanding answers to open cases and policy changes within the Department of Education.

In order to fully understand the impact of recent policy and civil rights investigatory and enforcement changes at the Department and the Office of Civil Rights, please provide the following information and documents by July 11, 2017:

  • A list of all open OCR cases involving a transgender student as of January 30, 2017, disaggregated by the nature of the complaint, and the current status of each of these cases.
  • A list of all open OCR cases involving sexual assault or sexual harassment as of January 30, 2017 and the current status of those cases.
  • A list of all cases OCR has closed or dismissed between January 1, 2017, and today, and the specific reason each case was closed.
  • A complete, un-redacted copy of the manual used by investigators.
  • An explanation of how the Department intends to ensure that OCR investigators are making determinations about transgender students’ rights based on binding legal precedent in their region. 
  • An answer as to whether the Department will continue to post all resolution agreements online.
  • Any and all memoranda, analyses, or other communications discussing the rationale for, and impact of, policy changes affecting civil rights enforcement by the Department.
  • Any and all memoranda, analyses, or other communications discussing the rationale for, and impact of, proposed budget cuts in OCR.
  • A list of all metrics that will be used by the Department to assess effectiveness of civil rights enforcement.

There is no more serious responsibility of the Department than to ensure consistent, vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws and protections for all students.”

Due to the disturbing actions of the U.S. Department of Education and other agencies, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has opened a multi-agency investigation into whether the Trump Administration’s proposed budgets, staffing cuts, and policy priorities have increased the risk of discrimination.

The full letter is attached below.

062717 - Betsy DeVos ED Office of Civil Rights (OCR)

Troubling The Ashes: A Tale Desegregation In Governor Wallace’s Alabama

Troubling the Ashes_CoverI just finished reading a wonderful new book, Troubling the Ashes, that highlights the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South.  The fictional story follows the life of a white woman, Marley, and her family, living through the turbulent times of the 1960’s.

Marley’s husband Winston was offered a job as a football coach in the small town of Natasugla, Alabama. The town was still reeling from when the school was burned to the ground just two years prior. Curious about what happened to the school, the school principle, Hunter,  tells the story of how the school was burned down to prevent the black children from the nearby town of Tuskegee from being allowed to attend.

Hunter told them about the first day students from Tuskegee came to Natasugla. He told them of how the mob of segregationists beat a white photographer in the streets for supporting the integration all while the county sheriff watched.

Marley and Winston eventually decided to stay and raise their own children in Natasula. The next few years are filled with attacks, false accusations, and the KKK.  Marley, Winston and a growing group of “public school supporters” work together to lessen the racial tensions that erupted over the past few years always hoping that one day they would be gone forever.

Shirley Aaron, author of Troubling the Ashes, does a masterful job of weaving the fiction characters and historical events.  At times the book reads more like a historical autobiography than a work of fiction.

The release of this book could not be prudent as some have noted the eerie similarities between Governor George Wallace and Republican Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump.  While many political pundits on the right claim that racism and segregation ended with the passage of the Civil Rights Act, it is simply not true.

According to a new Pew Research Study, 61% of Americans believe that changes must be made in order to achieve racial equality.  It also reveals that black-white gaps in social and economic well-being persist across several measures. So how far have we come?

Shirley Aaron, author of Troubling the Ashes

Shirley Aaron, author of Troubling the Ashes

“Of course, we’ve seen many great changes since the turbulent 1960’s,” says Aaron. “But racism still lingers in closets, under beds, and inside the mind. Today, it just wears a different mask.”

With the current rise of the Black Lives Matter movement many Americans are learning that systemic racism still hinders blacks from getting a quality education, a good paying job, and that blacks are routinely targeted by law enforcement.

George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Troubling the Ashes is the prefect way to stop and look back to see how far we have come in the last fifty years only to see that there is more work to be done.

Chris Christie Proposes Tracking Devices For Guests Of The USA

I don’t know what to say to this proposal by Chris Christie.  Essentially he wants to put some type of tracking device on every immigrant who enters the country legally and then when their time is up, track them down and boot them out of the country.

From Slate:

“So here’s what I’m going to do as president: I’m going to ask Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, to come work for the government for three months, just come for three months to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and show these people.” Smith is the father of Christie spokeswoman Samantha Smith, notes CNN.

Christie apparently wants to create a massive surveillance system in order to do this so that the government knows exactly where every immigrant is all the time. “We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in and then when your time is up … however long your visa is, then we go get you and tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘Excuse me, thanks for coming, it’s time to go.'”

Slate notes that nearly 10 million visas were issues last year alone.


I understand that these people are guests in our country and that one of the many problems we have with immigration is that people overstay their legal visa’s but do we really want to create a government program that tracks every immigrant?

If you agree with this policy idea, how long will it be before they start tracking the movements of all Americans?  Would that be acceptable too?

These are people, not cattle and this entire idea seems a little nuts.

Rep Annie Kuster Honors Civil Rights Activist Jonathan Myric Daniels Of Keene

Washington, DC –  As the United States approaches the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) took to the House floor to honor slain civil rights activist and clergyman Jonathan Myrick Daniels of Keene. Mr. Daniels sacrificed his own life in order to stand up for equality and justice for all, and Congresswoman Kuster reminded everyone in her speech that we must honor his memory and continue to fight for his life’s work.

“Jonathan Myrick Daniels ultimately sacrificed his life in order to join the civil rights movement and stand up for fairness and equality for all. Today, we honor his memory and recommit to fighting for the ideals of equal rights that he held dear. Mr. Daniels set a shining example for every American across the country, and we must join together to continue his work and ensure that no man or woman in this country is ever discriminated against because of the color of his or her skin,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster.

In the mid-1960’s, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called on fellow clergy members to travel to Selma, Alabama to join the fight for civil rights. A Keene native, Jonathan Myrick Daniels took time off from seminary in order to join Dr. King and Congressman John Lewis in Selma. In addition to his voter registration efforts, Mr. Daniels stood guard during the march from Selma to Montgomery, and helped integrate a local Episcopal Church. Tragically, on August 20, 1965, Daniels jumped in front of a 17-year-old girl being threatened by a police officer, and he took the bullet meant for her. On the House floor today, Congresswoman Kuster honored his memory and pledged to continue the fight for equal rights that Daniels joined over 50 years ago.

Senator Shaheen Honors Slain NH Civil Rights Activist Jonathan Daniels

Jonathan-Daniels(Washington, DC) – This evening, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) honored the life of Jonathan Daniels, a New Hampshire civil rights activist from Keene, who was killed in Fort Deposit, Alabama defending a fellow civil rights activist 50 years ago.  

Shaheen’s remarks as prepared for delivery are included below:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jonathan Daniels Remembrance

Mr. President, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March this month, I rise to honor the work and sacrifice of Jonathan Myrick Daniels.  He was a young Episcopalian seminary student from Keene, New Hampshire, who answered Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for clergy to travel to Alabama to join him on this march.

Jonathan lost his life five months later, in an act that Reverend King called “one of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry.”

Although Jonathan had originally intended to spend a short time in the south and then return to his studies at the Episcopal Theological School in Boston, he felt compelled by events to remain in Alabama through the spring and summer to register voters with the Episcopalian Society for Cultural and Racial Unity.

On August 14, 1965, Jonathan was arrested along with a number of other civil rights activists at a demonstration in Fort Deposit, Alabama – a small town outside of Montgomery.  They had gone there to protest segregation in the town’s stores.  But their demonstration was over within minutes.  Armed white men from the town descended on them and took them to jail.

Jonathan and his fellow activists spent six days in the Hayneville County jail.  Many in the group were still teenagers.

Despite the conditions, Jonathan somehow maintained an unflaggingly upbeat attitude and good humor.  He wrote his mother in New Hampshire a brief letter from jail, apologetically describing it as a “peculiar birthday card” for her. He wrote: “The food is vile and we aren’t allowed to bathe (whew!)…As you can imagine, I’ll have a tale or two to swap over our next martini.”

He declined an offer of bail money from an Episcopal organization, because the amount would not have covered the release of the rest of his group.

Daniels_girl_smallOn Friday, August 20, the whole group was suddenly released.  Strangely, their bail had been waived, and no one was there to meet them or take them home.  The town seemed completely deserted.

Jonathan and a few others walked a block away to a store to buy something to eat and drink.  As he climbed the steps of the porch to the store, he suddenly heard someone shout from inside and threaten to shoot if they didn’t leave.  Jonathan barely had time to react before the man opened fire, but somehow he managed to jump in front of his friend Ruby Sales, a seventeen year old African-American girl.

He saved Ruby’s life, but Jonathan was killed by the close range shot that was intended for her.  He was just 26 years old.

The shooter called the murder in to the sheriff’s office himself.  He said, “I just shot two preachers.  You better get on down here.”  An all-white jury later acquitted the man, taking just two hours to find him not guilty.

While Jonathan was sacrificing his life for civil rights in Alabama, here in the U.S. Senate debate raged over the federal government’s role in protecting the voting rights of disfranchised American citizens.

Since 1870, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution had prohibited state governments from denying a citizen’s right to vote based on race.  However, in precincts throughout the South, black Americans were subjected to discriminatory poll taxes, literacy tests and other forms of voter intimidation.

In many places, town clerks outright refused to register black voters.

Just two weeks before Jonathan was killed, Congress finally passed the Voting Rights Act, which outlawed electoral practices that discriminated against minority groups.

2015 marks the 50th anniversary of this landmark law. And while this anniversary presents an obvious time for reflection, it is also a time to look forward and address the challenges still facing our country.

The impact of the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down a critical section of the law requiring federal approval for electoral law changes in districts with a history of discrimination, is particularly troubling.

This ruling now allows states to implement restrictive voting requirements that will make it more difficult for voters to cast their ballots.  In fact, since this ruling almost all of the affected states have already begun attempts to restrict voting, targeting seniors, students and minorities and threatening their access to the polls.

The right to make your voice heard as a citizen of this nation is a fundamental principle of our great democracy and should never be infringed upon.  We have a responsibility to protect this right and address these injustices.

While our nation has made a lot of progress since the 1960s and ‘70s, the struggle is far from over.  Inequality and racism remain in our society.  And, as long as discrimination and racial disparities exist, the full protections of the Voting Rights Act are necessary to guarantee the rights of citizenship for every American.

Jonathan Daniels should be turning 76 years old in March.  He is widely recognized as a martyr of the 20th century.  In Keene, his hometown, an elementary school bears his name.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of his passing, as well as of the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we must strive to honor his legacy by ensuring that all current and future American citizens can exercise the rights he died to protect.

One Person, One Vote – The 1965 Struggle Goes On

This article was first published in the Concord Monitor, January 15, 2015

By Yoichi R. Okamoto, White House Press Office (WHPO) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Yoichi R. Okamoto, White House Press Office (WHPO) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When President Lyndon Johnson reached Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by phone on January 15, 1965, it wasn’t to offer birthday greetings. The president wanted to strategize about voting rights.

The two leaders were at the peak of their popularity. King had recently returned from Oslo with the Nobel Peace Prize and was gearing up a voting rights campaign centered in Selma, Alabama. Johnson, elected by a landslide two months earlier, had boldly called for “enforcement of the civil rights law and elimination of barriers to the right to vote” for African Americans in his January 7 “State of the Union” speech.

“We take the position that every person born in this country and when they reach a certain age, that he have a right to vote, just like he has a right to fight. And that we just extend it whether it’s a Negro or whether it’s a Mexican or who it is,” the president told Dr. King. “That’s right,” King responded.

But between the two leaders and realization of voting rights stood the power of southern politicians and the often violent enforcement of white supremacy that blocked blacks from the voting rolls in southern states. In Dallas County, Alabama, where Selma was the major city, only 335 blacks were registered to vote by fall, 1964, despite repeated efforts. Outside Selma, black majority rural counties had no black voters at all. Attempts to register could provoke beatings, firings, or worse.

Before the Selma-based campaign led to passage of the Voting Rights Act, hundreds of people would be arrested for peaceful protests, dozens would be beaten, and at least three – Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Reeb, and Viola Liuzzo– would be murdered by white supremacists. In Jackson’s case, the killer was a state trooper. (Jonathan Daniels, a seminary student from Keene, would be murdered three weeks after President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.)

One Person, One Vote Principle is Under Attack

Fifty years later the principle of one person, one vote is again under attack, though the forces arrayed against democracy are less bloody.

For starters, federal election law been tilting toward the power of dollars and away from votes – just look at the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts. In a 2013 case, Shelby vs. Holder, the Court invalidated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School calls “a critical tool to combat racial discrimination in voting.” Congress has power to rewrite the provision and restore this power to the Justice Department but has taken no action to date.

In its 2010 Citizens United decision, the Court famously affirmed the principles that corporations are people and money is speech, thus opening the gates for floods of corporate cash to pour into the election system. In 2014’s McCutcheon decision, the Court enabled donors to invest as much as $2.4 million in congressional candidates every two years. Then Congress piled on at year’s end with a last-minute amendment to the budget bill that raised the limits on contributions to political parties from $97,200 a year to $776,000.

Meanwhile the states have again become major battlegrounds for voting rights. According to the Brennan Center, 21 states, including New Hampshire, have approved measures to restrict voting since 2010. These include Voter ID requirements, laws making it harder to register, reduced voting hours, and measures making it harder for people with criminal records to regain their voting rights.

Race Still Drives Attacks on Voting Rights

“Race was also a significant factor,” the Brennan Center reports. “Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, 7 have new restrictions in place. Of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010, 9 passed laws making it harder to vote. And nearly two-thirds of states — or 9 out of 15 — previously covered in whole or in part by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because of a history of race discrimination in voting have new restrictions since the 2010 election.”

New Hampshire is likely to see further efforts to erode voting rights in 2015. Bills to restrict same-day registration and suppress student voting are on the legislature’s agenda.

It’s not like the country has a problem of too many people voting. Nationwide, only 35.9% of eligible voters cast ballots in 2014. In New Hampshire, 47.6% of eligible voters went to the polls – hardly a figure to be proud of if we really believe in government of the people by the people and for the people.

Fortunately, lawmakers and voting rights advocates are taking action. In New Hampshire, bills are being proposed to make it easier to cast absentee ballots and to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they will turn 18 before the General Election.

A bi-partisan bill to put teeth back into the Voting Rights Act is likely to return to Congress. At the grassroots level, a growing nationwide movement is calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would establish clearly that the rights enumerated in the Constitution are intended for actual persons, not corporations, and that government regulation of campaign finance can be accomplished without infringing on political speech. In New Hampshire, more than 50 communities already have adopted resolutions backing such a measure.

The January 19 holiday marking Dr. King’s birthday and the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United decision on January 21 can be occasions for us to re-assert our commitment to democracy. Shall we overcome?

Immigration, Civil Rights and Labor Groups Join Legal Effort to Defend Immigration Action

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Washington D.C. – Today, immigration, civil rights and labor groups joined the legal effort to defend President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration by filing an amicus “friend of the court” brief in the case, State of Texas vs. United States. In the days after the President’s November 20th announcement, two lawsuits were filed seeking to block implementation of the new deferred action initiatives. Both lawsuits seek a “preliminary injunction”—a temporary block of the programs during the life of a lawsuit. The amicus brief, which was written in support of the federal government, provides powerful economic, fiscal, and societal reasons to allow these programs to take effect later this year.

The American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Define American, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Immigration Law Center, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, Service Employees International Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and United We Dream filed a brief opposing the states’ request for a preliminary injunction against the administration’s new deferred action initiatives.

In their brief, the groups provide powerful testimonials about potential beneficiaries of the new deferred action initiatives, many of whom are already entrepreneurs and community leaders. These individuals include a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, community leaders, and primary breadwinners for U.S. citizen children. The groups also explain how the deferred action initiatives will positively impact the U.S. economy, raising wages, increasing tax revenue, and creating new jobs.

Legal battles against President Obama’s action on immigration have already begun. Last week, the first case brought by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, was rejected by a federal district court judge in D.C. The second case, filed by Texas and 24 other states, is currently set to be heard on January 9, in the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Texas, Brownsville Division.

These lawsuits are merely an attempt to use the courts for political ends; scores of legal experts agree that the President’s actions are well within the scope of his executive authority. Beneath the surface of the lawsuits are the same speculative and discredited myths of criminality and economic impacts that have long fueled anti-immigrant rhetoric.

To view the groups’ legal brief in full see:

  • Amici Curiae brief (December 29, 2014)

After SCOTUS Destroyed The Voting Rights Act, Labor Leaders Call On Congress To Protect Voters

“The right to vote is precious and almost sacred, and one of the most important blessings of our democracy,” wrote Rep. John Lewis. “Today we must be vigilant in protecting that blessing.”

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)


The 1960’s were a tumultuous time in America, especially for Americans of color. The battle for civil rights was being played out in city streets across the country. The evening news was full of demonstrations and rallies where people were gathering to fight for equality, and to be allowed their Constitutionally protected right to participate in our democracy.

Demonstrations, walkouts and sit-ins led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Both laws pushed America in new bold new direction, working to ensure everyone has a voice in our democracy. For decades Congress reauthorized the Voting Rights Act, to ensure that everyone, regardless of color, had the right to vote.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, which severely undermined the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court ruling threatened the voting rights of millions of Americans.

Rep John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis

“Today, the Supreme Court stuck a dagger into the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most effective pieces of legislation Congress has passed in the last 50 years,” said Congressman John Lewis after the Supreme Court ruling in 2013.

“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

Representative Lewis continued, “I disagree with the court that the history of discrimination is somehow irrelevant today. The record clearly demonstrates numerous attempts to impede voting rights still exist, and it does not matter that those attempts are not as “pervasive, widespread or rampant” as they were in 1965. One instance of discrimination is too much in a democracy.”

“Despite the Court’s opinion, voter discrimination based on race is not a thing of the past—it is a current reality that persists to this day,” said Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “We saw efforts to disenfranchise African American and Latino voters in the 2012 election cycle in Texas, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and elsewhere – but voters there were protected by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. In the wake of the Shelby decision, many of these jurisdictions rushed to implement new laws in time for the 2014 election cycle – the same unfair and discriminatory voting practices that had been rejected by the Department of Justice and the Federal Courts under the Voting Rights Act.

After the Supreme Court ruling, a handful of states moved quickly to push new “Voter ID” laws that have notoriously disenfranchised voters of color. Texas also rammed through their new gerrymandered districts that, prior to this decision, would have required a pre-clearance from the Department of Justice.

“Since 2010, 22 states have passed new voting restrictions that make it more difficult to vote,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said, citing a new report from the Brennan Center for Justice. “Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, seven of those have new restrictions in place.”

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on Senator Leahy’s bill to restore the Voting Rights Act.

“In the audience for Wednesday’s hearing was Ernest Montgomery, a member of the Calera City Council in Alabama and one of several black residents who intervened in the Shelby County lawsuit to try to protect pre-clearance. He said any update to the Voting Rights Act should restore pre-clearance for Alabama.” (Burlington Free Press)

“It would make our state leaders much more cautious about having any more violations and make sure we do the right thing,” Montgomery said.

After a year of waiting, and the unparalleled attacks on voting rights, we have seen a renewed effort for Congress to pass a new Voting Rights Act.

“That is why Members of Congress must come together and develop a fix to the Voting Rights Act – as the Court’s majority opinion recommended – that protects all Americans’ right to vote, regardless of who they are and where they live,” Henry stated. “We are hopeful that Congress can work together to restore the protections against racial discrimination that the Voting Rights Act is meant to provide for all Americans.”

“Fully restoring the Voting Rights Act is one of the only ways to give every American the fundamental right to participate in our democracy. Today’s bipartisan hearing on the Voting Rights Amendment Act is the first step in the fight to restore voting rights, the lifeblood of our democracy,” stated Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers.

“Our elected leaders should do everything in their power to make our democracy more accessible,” continued Weingarten. “Sadly, the Shelby decision and other state measures have made it easier for monied interests to have a voice and harder for those who have been historically disenfranchised.”

“The right to vote is precious and almost sacred, and one of the most important blessings of our democracy,” wrote Rep. John Lewis. “Today we must be vigilant in protecting that blessing.”

“As we approach another election, we must join together and reclaim the promise of our democracy, reverse the Shelby decision and enact meaningful protections at the ballot box,” concluded Weingarten.

AFT created a petition calling for action from the US House on a new Voting Rights Act.

Will Congress do the right thing to protect the voting rights of millions of Americans, or will they continue to sit there, with their hands over their eyes, pretending that people of color are not being refused their Constitutional right to vote?

The Congressional Black Caucus Shows Their Strong Support For Organized Labor

History has identified many of the great advances that organized labor has made for all workers.  Are you looking forward to the weekend? Do you have healthcare, retirement, paid time off?  All of these advances come from the battles that were fought by organized labor.

Among the African-American community, labor unions have a long held a very special place in their culture.  Not only did organized labor help millions of African-Americans lift themselves out of poverty, it helped to push for their civil rights as Americans.

Ohio Congresswoman Joyce Beatty talked about what growing up in a union household meant to her.

“Because my dad was a union worker.  Often times I say I was able to go to college because of union dollars.”

The Congressional Black Caucus spent an hour talking about the importance of organized labor to the African-American community.

“Labor unions played an important role in the civil rights movement,” said Joyce Beatty. “Today the labor movement continues to be an important issue to African Americans – just as important as it was 50 years ago during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

(Rep G.K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina) “On August 28, 1963, more than 300,000 people, including myself, witness the call for civil and economic rights for African-Americans. And on that hot day in August, we heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his historic ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.  The march was one of the largest rallies for civil rights in the history of our country. It was organized in large part, I want to make this point, it was organized in large part by labor unions.”

Representative Donald Payne Jr. (D-New Jersey) continued to talk about Dr. King’s dream by saying, “what we have seen today is an erosion to that dream.”

Representative Hakeem Jefferies (D-New York) explains how we can close the economic inequality gap that is plaguing America.

“The best way to get there is not to attack organized labor, but to recognize what it has done for this country and to strengthen organized labor as we move forward.”

Watch this short highlight reel of the Congressional Black Caucus speeches from September 9th compiled by the Communication Workers of America.


You can also watch extended speeches from each of these Representatives on the CBC YouTube channel here or select them individually below.

Rep. Joyce Beatty (OH-03)

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC-01)

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08)

Rep. Donald Payne (NJ-10)

Rep. Marc Veasey (TX-33)

1963 March on Washington – Caroline French was there!

1963 March on Washington for Jobs and FreedomFifty years ago, a quarter-million people found their ways to our nation’s capital for one of the largest political rallies in history.

Caroline French, a grassroots political activist and antiques dealer from the Seacoast, was one of them. “I was 21 years old, a college student at UNH,” she said. “When you’re in college, you really care about social issues like equality. At the time, I didn’t realize how significant the event was, but my friends were going, and I went too.” French was one of a group of students from the University of New Hampshire who took a bus down to Washington for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

“Nobody who was there knew how important it was, at the time,” she said. “You don’t go to an event thinking ‘this is going to change the history of the world.’ It’s only in retrospect, decades later, that you can see how it affected our country.”

“The ideals of equality were already there, before the March,” French recalled. “I remember seeing efforts to desegregate on television. It was a national issue and we paid attention.”

“Racism is an original flaw in this country, and it has been a problem since Day One,” she said. “These days, there’s a myth, now that we’ve had a black President, it’s all ‘hunky-dory’. But that’s not the truth at all. The legacy of racism, the economic legacy, is still a real concern.”

The trip that started out as a “college adventure” changed the direction of her life. “Because I was there, I do things and got involved in things that I wouldn’t have otherwise,” French said. “I support the Southern Poverty Law Center. I have gone back to Washington for other marches, women’s marches, labor, health care. I pay attention, and I get involved in groups that do things – activist groups that don’t just sit on the sidelines. Women’s equality, marriage equality, racial equality, gun safety.”

French is just one of a quarter-million people who were at that March. Imagine the impact, if everyone who attended had their lives changed the same way Caroline did.


“The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education and other forms of advocacy, we work toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.” Read more about the Center here.

Read the “I HAVE A DREAM…” speech by Martin Luther King here.

See the Official Program of events for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom here.

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