Commentary: ‘THIS IS OUR SELMA!’

Commentary: ‘THIS IS OUR SELMA!’
July 09
00:00 2015

In photo above: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Remember our fight of yesterday; get ready for new fight

William J. Barber II, Guest Columnist

We are going into one of the most historic weeks of our lives.
49 years and 11 months ago, civil rights leaders, whose steps were covered in the blood of the martyrs, were anticipating the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
They would wait 31 more days, until August 6, 1965, for the to be signed into law.
Today we find ourselves fighting to hold on to the very things that they won 50 years ago.
This is no small moment and we have all been chosen for this.
The moment is bigger than any individual — it is a collective, Kairos moment.
Personally I am glad to be alive and glad to be on this righteous team with you.
I know we were meant to be together, to fight together, and to serve this present age together.
So let us do it so well that in the ages to come someone will recall how we served, how we stood, and how we would not turn around.

The following is from “Give Us the Ballot,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Address at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom (May 17, 1957):

‘Unfortunately, this noble and sublime decision has not gone without opposition. This opposition has often risen to ominous proportions. Many states have risen up in open defiance. The legislative halls of the South ring loud with such words as “interposition” and “nullification.”
But even more, all types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition. And so our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote. [Audience:] (Yes)
Give us the ballot, and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights.
Give us the ballot (Yes), and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law on the statute books of the South (All right) and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence.
Give us the ballot (Give us the ballot), and we will transform the salient misdeeds of bloodthirsty mobs (Yeah) into the calculated good deeds of orderly citizens.
Give us the ballot (Give us the ballot), and we will fill our legislative halls with men of goodwill (All right now) and send to the sacred halls of Congress men who will not sign a “Southern Manifesto” because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice.5(Tell ’em about it)
Give us the ballot (Yeah), and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will do justly and love mercy (Yeah), and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who will, who have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the Divine.Give us the ballot (Yes), and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court’s decision of May seventeenth, 1954. (That’s right)

In this juncture of our nation’s history, there is an urgent need for dedicated and courageous leadership…’

The following is from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Address at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March (March 25, 1965):

‘My dear and abiding friends, Ralph Abernathy, and to all of the distinguished Americans seated here on the rostrum, my friends and co-workers of the state of Alabama, and to all of the freedom-loving people who have assembled here this afternoon from all over our nation and from all over the world: Last Sunday, more than eight thousand of us started on a mighty walk from Selma, Alabama. We have walked through desolate valleys and across the trying hills. We have walked on meandering highways and rested our bodies on rocky byways. Some of our faces are burned from the outpourings of the sweltering sun. Some have literally slept in the mud. We have been drenched by the rains. [Audience:] (Speak) Our bodies are tired and our feet are somewhat sore.But today as I stand before you and think back over that great march, I can say, as Sister Pollard said—a seventy-year-old Negro woman who lived in this community during the bus boycott—and one day, she was asked while walking if she didn’t want to ride. And when she answered, “No,” the person said, “Well, aren’t you tired?” And with her ungrammatical profundity, she said, “My feets is tired, but my soul is rested.” (Yes, sir. All right) And in a real sense this afternoon, we can say that our feet are tired, (Yes, sir) but our souls are rested. They told us we wouldn’t get here. And there were those who said that we would get here only over their dead bodies, (Well. Yes, sir. Talk) but all the world today knows that we are here and we are standing before the forces of power in the state of Alabama saying, “We ain’t goin’ let nobody turn us around.” (Yes, sir. Speak) [Applause]Now it is not an accident that one of the great marches of American history should terminate in Montgomery, Alabama. (Yes, sir) Just ten years ago, in this very city, a new philosophy was born of the Negro struggle. Montgomery was the first city in the South in which the entire Negro community united and squarely faced its age-old oppressors. (Yes, sir. Well) Out of this struggle, more than bus [de]segregation was won; a new idea, more powerful than guns or clubs was born. Negroes took it and carried it across the South in epic battles (Yes, sir. Speak) that electrified the nation (Well) and the world…’

In the Spirit of Truth and Justice,
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
President, N.C. NAACP

For more information about the N.C. NAACP’s efforts, go to

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