|Old Ga. state flag - Photo by Tomi Johnson|
Maybe we should contemplate the past. The American Reconstruction Era began in the South after the Civil War. During Reconstruction, former Confederate States were rebuilt under federal government guidance. It occurred on the heels of the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1870 which prohibited denying voting rights to citizen's regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
During this time, many blacks voted, secured land and property, held jobs, and were voted into public office. Violence against black voters was suppressed, however, and the Ku Klux Klan formed and strengthened to counter these rights. This era ended in 1877, and many blacks were disenfranchised.
After much marching, bloodshed and debate, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. looking on. This piece of legislation outlawed discriminatory voting practices against African Americans. In the 21st century, however, many voter ID laws have been proposed to "protect" voting by unauthorized persons.
Then came the Supreme Court decision this week, Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Attorney General et al. This decision removes the stipulation that certain states have to receive approval from the federal government before any voting laws are amended or enacted. Some civil rights advocates predict voter's rights will be curtailed, black elected officials will lose their seats, and redistricting will take place.
In Georgia, all this comes while several black officials are being convicted, investigated, and removed from office. In 2004, former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell was convicted for tax evasion and served two years in federal prison. In March 2013, retired Atlanta School Board Superintendent Beverly Hall was indicted by a grand jury in relation to her role in a cheating scandal as well as several other school officials.
In May 2013, noted civil rights leader and State Representative Tyrone Brooks was indicted by federal authorities for fraud and tax evasion. Brooks claims that the CIA has targeted him for prosecution for his investigation into the lynching of a black couple in 1946. Last week, DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was indicted on 15 criminal charges. Do we see a pattern here??? The old guard of the civil rights movement are now elderly or resting in their graves. Will new leaders step in to continue King's dream of a free society, of a Beloved Community?
If black leaders have done something illegal, they should be investigated and prosecuted, but if they are being targeted to cool down advances since passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that's another story. How this movement will be counteracted - whether by boycotts, marching, or strict defense in the courts - will be closely watched by those interested in the political process.