Each year on this day, we commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – a hero to generations of Americans.
As I prepare to speak today at an NAACP rally in front of South Carolina's state capitol, I reflect on how Dr. King risked everything to advance civil and human rights in America.
Despite repeated threats against his life, he spread the message of non-violent civil disobedience against unjust laws throughout the Jim Crow South and our nation as a whole.
His leadership has inspired Americans to win big victories that have moved our nation closer to the long-expressed, but yet-unrealized ideal that our school children repeat every day: we are "one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all".
Today, one of the greatest victories Dr. King helped win during his lifetime is under withering attack: The Voting Rights Act and the rights it protects – for all Americans to be able to participate in free and fair elections.
South Carolina has become ground zero in this battle that is taking place in state capitols across the nation.
On one side, you have civil rights activists and the U.S. Department of Justice fighting on behalf of thousands upon thousands of voters who would be disenfranchised by laws that introduce the first new financial and literacy-based obstacles to voting since we eliminated the poll tax and voting tests. Fighting on behalf of Americans like the students at South Carolina’s Benedict College, whose student identification cards have been deemed insufficient for use as voter ID. And we are fighting on behalf of senior citizens like Larry Butler, born here in 1926 when blacks often were not issued birth certificates. Now, for the first time in his life, if Mr. Butler wants to vote it will cost him $150 to obtain the documents required by South Carolina's voter suppression law.
On the other side, you have governors like South Carolina's Nikki Haley suing to gut the Voting Rights Act after the Justice Department blocked the state’s discriminatory voter ID law. I am proud to stand alongside Attorney General Eric Holder today in front of the South Carolina State House and recommit to protecting the right to vote.
Read the speech that I will give today in front of the State House, then share with us how you will help uphold voting rights in 2012:
Today, NAACP State Conference presidents who are leading battles to defend voting rights in South Carolina and several other southern states will lead this march.
We march today to defend our right to vote and to defend our nation’s dream of America as a place where everybody works, everybody contributes, and everybody counts.
We march today for good jobs that can support our families, and an education for our children that will pave the way for them to do the same.
We march today to declare our intent to defeat the deeds of any Governor who would deify our great dreamer, but desecrate his dream.
Join us in making Dr. King's dream a reality– again, please take a moment read today’s speech, then share your plan to help us uphold voting rights in 2012.
Benjamin Todd Jealous
President & CEO