June 9, 2023
Statement on the Supreme Court's defense of voting rights
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center applauds the United States Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Alabama’s discriminatory and illegal congressional map. The gerrymandered map in question was a clear and direct effort to disenfranchise Black voters – a battle this nation has been fighting since Black Americans were first granted the right to vote in 1870 (though Black women would wait another 50 years for their right). This is a victory for voting rights, and, importantly, a defense of social justice and equity in this nation.
It’s poetic that such a victory for voting rights should come from Alabama, where the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s began. Now, 68 years after Rosa Parks defied segregation on a bus and 58 years after John Lewis led the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, another step for freedom and for equity has begun in Alabama. We hope this is a warning to legislators in other states that our nation will not tolerate attempts to undermine and suppress our nation’s most fundamental democratic value – the right to vote and to ensure that all eligible citizens can freely participate in the electoral process.
While this ruling is a victory for the hard-earned Voting Rights Act of 1965, it does not eliminate threats to voting rights in America. We must remain vigilant and proactive in defending and expanding voting rights in our country. And we can do so by urging our lawmakers to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
As laws have been used to oppress and deny rights, so, too, have they been used to liberate and guarantee rights. But legislation can only liberate if the lawmakers writing it are committed to equity. And those lawmakers can only be sworn into office if voted there by citizens likewise committed to equity and with fair and equitable access to the polls. Which makes the right to vote and equitable access to it so critical for our free, democratic and just nation.
Voting rights are tantamount to freedom. Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision was a victory for voting rights, but also a reminder that they remain under attack. We must defend them by using them to elect lawmakers who value equity as much as we do. The stakes are too high for apathy. Our democracy and our personal liberties depend on it.
Woodrow Keown, Jr.
President & COO
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Ways to get involved
Register to vote and make your voice heard. Elect officials who support equity and equitable access to vote. Contact your legislators to ensure protection of voting rights.