“Deep in my heart, I do believe, that we shall overcome some day.” And today in Alabama, we did.
Songs were integral to the civil rights movement. And no song was as iconic as “We Shall Overcome”. ,It inspired a generation of civil rights warriors, was sung at rallies, churches, marches, concerts, and by the SNCC Freedom Singers, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to close the Newport Folk Festival in 1963.
And no places were as iconic to the civil rights movement as Selma and Montgomery Alabama.
It was in Montgomery that Rosa Park first refused to give up her seat in the front of the bus to a white man, sparking the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott that brought a 26-year old preacher named Martin Luther King to national prominence and inspired a mass movement for justice
It was in Selma that hundreds of activists faced down armed state troops to attempt to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and John Lewis was nearly beaten to death by Alabama police.
And few weeks later, it was the Selma to Montgomery civil rights March that finally pushed Congress to enact the historic Voting Rights Act.
The path towards equal rights for all has hardly followed a straight line, and there have been many set-backs along the way, not the least of which was Donald Trump’s electoral college victory. And the 5-4 majority Republican Supreme Court recently eviscerated the Voting Rights Act, helping to unleash a slew of voter suppression efforts aimed at keeping mostly minorities and young people exercising their Constitutional right to vote.
But in Alabama today, we did overcome. And much of the credit goes to the people of Selma, Montgomery, and the rest Alabama’s black belt, as well as to decent whites—both Republicans and Democrats--who couldn’t bear the thought of a bible-thumping white child molester representing their state in the U.S. Senate and being a symbol of Alabama for the world.
By the latest count, Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore by 20,715 votes statewide. But in Montgomery County, Jones won by 30,481 votes (nearly a 4-1 margin) and in Dallas County, of which Selma is the county seat, Jones won by 7,007 (also nearly a 4-1 margin).
As Martin Luther King famously said, “The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.” And today in Montgomery and Selma and across Alabama, it did.
I’ll go to bed tonight humming “We Shall Overcome” with tears of joy in my eyes. And tomorrow I’ll wake up, determined to continue the fight for racial, social, gender, and economic justice.