March 23rd, 2015
My parents were from humble beginnings. “Ma,” as I called her, was from North Carolina, and dad heralded from West Virginia. They met in Washington, D.C., at a time when it was common for African-Americans to leave rural towns to pursue jobs in major cities. Both were subject to Jim Crow laws that required separate accommodations for blacks and whites. Neither achieved a college degree. However, both had a strong work ethic and common sense, which they passed on to me, in part by making sure I got a good education.
Sadly, neither one lived long enough to see our first African-American president take the oath of office – twice – but I think they would have been equally surprised to see their daughter join that president on March 7 in Selma, Alabama.
We were there to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the day in 1965 when civil rights marchers trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge were savagely beaten by the authorities. The events of Bloody Sunday led to the passage later that year of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signaling the beginning of the end of racial discrimination at the ballot box.