Sat
Oct 27 2012
01:53 pm
By: R. Neal  shortURL


(click image for more photos...)

Hands that picked cotton can pick our presidents.

Anyone who can't be bothered to vote or who thinks their vote doesn't count should take a trip down to Selma Alabama. For 100 years after the Civil War, black people in the South were still being denied the right to vote. In March of 1965, blood was spilled on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in the struggle to secure that right for all Americans.

We visited the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma. It's housed in an unassuming little building on Jefferson Davis Highway at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which crosses the Alabama River and is named after a Confederate general. The museum doesn't look like much from the outside, but inside you'll find powerful exhibits, photos and artifacts telling the story of the Selma civil rights movement. Out of that movement, a handful of courageous community leaders organized a march to Montgomery that led to the national Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The last exhibit at the museum celebrates the historic election of Barack Obama as president. It's the most current exhibit but likely not the final chapter. There is still a struggle. As we saw in 2000 and now again in 2012, a few rich, white and powerful men in America seek to prop up their own special interests on the backs of working people and the poor.

Over the last 50 years, the tactics and technology have changed but the end game is still the same: vote suppression. Instead of intimidation, billy clubs and fire hoses, there's a nationally organized campaign of voter registration database purges, photo ID laws that are nothing more than poll taxes and obstacles to voting, outsourced computerized black box voting, and right-wing propaganda machines fueled by unlimited corporate special interest money, all working in concert to suppress the minority, immigrant, poor and elderly vote.

At the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge across the highway from the Voting Rights Museum is a memorial to the Selma voting rights movement. There's a monument made of large stones with an inscription from the Bible book of Joshua that reads: "When your children shall ask you in time to come saying 'what mean these 12 stones?' then you shall tell them how you made it over."

As the media turns national elections into corporate-sponsored sporting events, let's not forget the struggles of previous generations who believed in the power of democracy and made great personal sacrifices to protect fundamental rights that some of us take for granted. Let's hope we can leave behind for future generations a similar legacy of fighting to preserve those rights. Moreover, let's hope they still care.

In the mean time, vote.

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EconGal's picture

Hands

Hands that picked cotton can pick our presidents

R. Neal, that's both a powerful and sad statement.

As a side note, however, by 1965, almost all of the cotton production in the US was machine harvested. Field laborers typically ranged from age 15 to 50. Certain types of weeds that didn't react well to herbicides were removed by somewhat more racially integrated hand operated hoe as recently as the 1980s.

Point: people of our generation "enjoy" a context to the changes of the past 50 years that our kids/grand kids will never understand. My kids can't believ the stories I tell them.

R. Neal's picture

I imagine there were plenty

I imagine there were plenty of people in the South in 1965 who had picked cotton sometime in their lives.

R. Neal's picture

people of our generation

people of our generation "enjoy" a context to the changes of the past 50 years that our kids/grand kids will never understand.

That's a good point. At least we still have museums and historical sites like this as important reminders. Until somebody decides they are non-essential and eliminates their funding.

metulj's picture

Depends on where you were.

Depends on where you were. Upland cotton is still hand picked by hand by certain growers trying meet specific staple demands.

bizgrrl's picture

As the media turns national

As the media turns national elections into corporate sponsored sporting events, let's not forget the struggle of previous generations who believed in the power of democracy and made great personal sacrifices to protect fundamental rights that some of us take for granted.

It's hard to imagine what strength they had to have to continue with the marches for their rights to vote. In the final march to Montgomery, they walked 50 miles, it took a week and U.S. government protection.

Rachel's picture

Pictures of that bridge

Pictures of that bridge always make me shiver. Thanks for sharing.

R. Neal's picture

One thing I learned at the

One thing I learned at the museum was that the Selma population was nearly 60% black with about 15,000 eligible black voters, but only 130 were registered. Sort of puts an exclamation mark on "get out the vote."

Sarge's picture

You do not have too go to

You do not have too go to Selma to experience of what people will do just to vote, visit Brownsville, Tn., circa 1960, better known as Tent City.

Average Guy's picture

The new "minority"

.., all working in concert to suppress the minority, immigrant, poor and elderly vote.

I get the historical points, but since the end of the "Solid South", haven't the remaining Democrats (Progessives) in the South become the minority?

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