02/13/2004

Senators Visit Civil Rights Memorial

A group of U.S. senators visited the Civil Rights Memorial today as part a three-day tour of southern sites important to the Civil Rights Movemen tof the 1950s and 1960s.

Sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Memorial was designed by noted architect and artist Maya Lin and honors those killed in the fight for racial justice in America.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Senators George Allen (R-VA), Sam Brownback(R-KS), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Jon Corzine (D-NJ), Mike DeWine (R-OH), Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) attended the tour.

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a noted activist from the Civil Rights Movement, shared his expertise with the group.

"The Civil Rights Movement transcends [political] party," Congressman Lewis told the Associated Press. "It's good to have Republican senators here; they will be able to go back and take a message to the President and their colleagues."

The tour continues throughout the weekend. Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) plan to join their colleagues Sunday in Nashville, the site of lunch-counter sit-ins that forced the nation to confront segregation in its public facilities nearly a half-century ago.

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center will open the Civil Rights Memorial Center, which will combine the histories of the martyrs listed on the Memorial with contemporary examples of the nation's ongoing struggle for racial justice and tolerance.