Congressional Delegation Lays Wreath at Memorial, Historical Marker Dedicated

A congressional delegation led by U.S. Rep. John Lewis today laid a wreath at the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala., to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives during the civil rights movement.

“Nearly 50 years ago, brave men and women risked their lives to march for equality,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “That march continues in all of us today whenever we stand up to hate and injustice. In Alabama, the spirit of the movement is alive as people from all walks of life are protesting an unjust anti-immigrant law. It’s a struggle to uphold our nation’s highest ideals and to recognize the fundamental human dignity of all people.”

Southern Poverty Law Center president Richard Cohen introduces Ethel Kennedy during the congressional wreath laying at the Civil Rights Memorial.

Last year, Alabama lawmakers passed HB 56, the harshest anti-immigrant law in the nation. A recent SPLC report found the law has resulted in harassment, intimidation and discrimination against Alabama’s Latinos, regardless of their immigration status. The SPLC is challenging the law in federal court.

Cohen welcomed the congressional delegation to the Civil Rights Memorial, which the SPLC dedicated to the martyrs of the movement in 1989.

The ceremony came on the eve of the 47th anniversary of the  “Bloody Sunday” voting rights march in Selma – the March 7, 1965, event that galvanized support for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Lewis was among the marchers beaten by Alabama state troopers during the attempted march to Montgomery.

John Lewis describes the milestone events of the Civil Rights Movement after the congressional wreath laying at the Civil Rights Memorial.

After the ceremony, Lewis joined Cohen for the dedication of a historical marker at the State Capitol to commemorate the end of the Selma-to-Montgomery march. The SPLC was among the sponsors of the marker.

Forty names of civil rights martyrs are inscribed on the Civil Rights Memorial. They were murdered because they were active in the movement; killed as acts of terrorism aimed at intimidating civil rights activists; or, their deaths, like that of Emmett Till, helped spur the movement forward by demonstrating the brutality faced by African Americans in the South. The Memorial, designed by Maya Lin, was commissioned by the Southern Poverty Law Center and sits across from its office in downtown Montgomery.

The congressional delegation was part of an annual pilgrimage sponsored by the Faith & Politics Institute. The annual three-day excursion is designed to bring people together across political, religious and racial lines and to offer opportunities for dialogue. Participants visit historic civil rights sites in Alabama, and the trip culminates in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to commemorate the 1965 voting rights march.

More photos are available on Facebook.