Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

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Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Long Road to the Ballot, Then and Now #Selma50

On March 7, 1965, hundreds of marchers took to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to protest the shooting of Jamie Lee Jackson and demand equity in voting rights. In the midst of the protests, Alabama state troopers violently assaulted hundreds of marchers, thereby shifting the day from peaceful demonstration to "Blood Sunday." Since that day, voting rights continues to progress and regress to include more individuals, disenfranchise others, and to redefine what it means to be a participant in our democracy.  

In 2014, 83 restrictive voting laws were proposed in 29 different states. These laws attempt to limit early voting periods and institute strict i.d. laws that make it difficult for marginalized groups, specifically the poor, elderly, and young, to register and cast a ballot. Voting rights have gradually taken a hit since the 2010 midterm elections and increasingly so after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, a clause that required states with histories of voting discrimination to get federal approval before changing electoral laws. Though this current climate paints a bleak outlook, we can take solace and inspiration in the collective actions of those before us, especially those of young people,who have long been mobilizing forces behind voting rights.                                                                                            
From the activists who fought to ratify the 15th and 19th amendments like Stowe's sister Isabella Beecher Hooker, to the students who coordinated registration drives across the south in the early 1960s, to Dr. King and Civil Rights icons like Fannie Lou Hamer and Bayard Rustin who championed the passing of the Voting Rights Act, the struggle over the vote is threaded into the fabric of the American narrative. These fights serve as a striking reminder that it took and takes arduous effort for some just to make it to the starting line of our democracy.              
The significance of the the voting rights movement is twofold. In a striking and almost unprecedented manner, these campaigns saw the organization of hundreds of activists all galvanized towards a singular cause. The work of these activists highlighted the importance of planning, diligence, and collective strength to enact holistic and thorough change. Beyond the power of its organization, these movements located the right to vote as a fundamental part of civil rights and posed the questions of “who gets a say in our democracy?” and by extension “who gets to be considered American?”.                                                                                                                                             
So, as we stand 50 years out from Blood Sunday, what can we do now to protect voting rights? What lessons have we learned from  Selma? What have we failed to learn? In the wake of the Department of Justice's report on overt racism in the Ferguson police department, how can we leverage the work of Civil Rights leaders in the past to the movements of the present?       

Check out President Obama's speech on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday below:

Come to the Stowe Center to learn more about the work of Stowe and her sister, along with ways that the past can be used to fuel contemporary action against injustices.

1 comment:

Matt said...

The VRA needs to be re-issued by Congress, though with this Congress I am not optimistic.

Did you see Selma? Great film-I learned a lot. Should be required viewing by all to understand the history of that time.