John Lewis Speech: 1963 March On Washington Speaker Urges Crowd To Fight For Voting Rights

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) urged the crowd at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington Saturday to fight for the Voting Rights Act in the wake of a June Supreme Court decision gutting its core provision.

“I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama for the right to vote,” he said, referring to Bloody Sunday in 1965 when police beat him and hundreds of other peaceful protesters. “I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us.”

Lewis continued, “You cannot stand by. You cannot sit down. You got to stand up. Speak up. Speak out, and get in the way. Make some noise!”

The crowd cheered.

“The vote is precious, it is almost sacred,” he said. “It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a Democratic society. And we got to use it!”

He called on Congress to fix the Voting Rights Act after the Court invalidated the provision requiring Southern states with a history of racism to have their voting laws cleared by a federal court or the federal government, and also called for comprehensive immigration reform.

Lewis was the 23-year-old chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when he spoke at the 1963 March.

“One man, one vote is the African cry. It is ours too. It must be ours,” he said during the 1963 event.

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