Atlanta Marchers Want Voting Rights Act Renewed

More than 10,000 people march through Atlanta, calling on Congress to reauthorize the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As Emily Kopp of Georgia Public Radio notes, portions of the law expire in 2007.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

Key provisions of the Voting Rights Act are set to expire in 2007, including one that requires some states to receive federal approval before changing their voting laws. Thousands of people marched today in Atlanta to call attention to a new Georgia law mandating stricter voter identification. From Georgia Public Broadcasting, Emily Kopp reports.

EMILY KOPP reporting:

Throngs of people gathered on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to begin the march. Many wore gold NAACP shirts. Others carried signs from their church congregations, sororities and alumni associations. Sixty-five-year-old Emma Jean Davis warmed up her voice.

Ms. EMMA JEAN DAVIS: What do you want?

Unidentified Group: (In unison) Voting rights.

Ms. DAVIS: When do you want it?

Unidentified Group: (In unison) Now.

KOPP: Davis says decades ago she marched to desegregate Rich's department store here in Atlanta. She brought her 11-year-old granddaughter today for what she says is another historic march.

Ms. DAVIS: And I am enthusiastic that I see all of these people out here and that they're doing such a wonderful thing today to march for our right to vote.

KOPP: The crowd marched to the stadium at historically black Morris Brown College. There, Georgia Congressman John Lewis walked on stage in front of a giant photo of Martin Luther King Jr. talking with President Lyndon Johnson. Lewis said the Voting Rights Act was good in 1965 and it's still good today.

Representative JOHN LEWIS (Democrat, Georgia): We will beat them. We were tear-gassed, we were bull-whipped, we were hurt, but we didn't give up and you must not give up 40 years later.

KOPP: Lewis joined more than a dozen other Democratic lawmakers in pledging to fight for the act's renewal in Congress. Then singer Stevie Wonder spoke. He called the purpose of the day's event ridiculous. Wonder says people should not have to keep marching for voting rights year after year.

Mr. STEVIE WONDER (Singer): Let our president sign a bill that says there'll be never a need for anyone to march again because the right of every single citizen of voting will be forever.

KOPP: Organizers say they chose Atlanta for the march because Georgia is one of the states that under the Voting Rights Act must seek federal approval before changing voting laws. A recently passed state law awaits Justice Department approval. It would require voters to show official photo identification. Most marchers oppose the law. They say it would prevent many elderly and poor from voting. They say the new law is proof the Voting Rights Act is still needed today.

For NPR News, I'm Emily Kopp in Atlanta.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: