today in black history

September 17, 2021

Vanessa Williams became the first Black woman to win the Miss America pageant in 1983 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

To Be Equal

POSTED: July 20, 2021, 9:15 am

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“The 21st century Jim Crow assault is real. It's unrelenting, and we're going to challenge it vigorously. While this broad assault against voting rights is not unprecedented, it's taking on a new and, literally, pernicious forms. It's no longer just about who gets to vote or making it easier for eligible voters to vote. It's about who gets to count the vote -- who gets to count whether or not your vote counted at all. It's about moving from independent election administrators who work for the people to polarized state legislatures and partisan actors who work for political parties. To me, this is simple: This is election subversion. It's the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history.” – President Joe Biden

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with President Biden and Vice President Harris to discuss the appalling attack on democracy that is ongoing in state legislatures across the country, as well as other issues of racial justice.

A few days later, President Biden delivered one of the most impassioned speeches of his presidency, echoing many of the themes we discussed in our meeting. He alluded to our meeting, reminding Americans of our commitment to “stay vigilant and challenge these odious laws in the courts.” I was proud that we pushed the President to address the issue, and we intend to continue pushing.

The National Urban League helped lead the meeting between the White House and a group of leaders from eight legacy Black civil rights organizations. Joining me were Melanie Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; Dr. Johnnetta Cole, National Chair and President of the National Council of Negro Women; Wade Henderson, Interim President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Damon Hewitt, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP; and Reverend Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network.

I was grateful for the opportunity to impress upon the President and Vice President the urgency of confronting the wave of anti-voter legislation that is surging through state legislatures. When we look at what is happening in this nation, we see an effort to impose a system of American apartheid on our grand and glorious multicultural nation. State laws are used to suppress the vote, the filibuster process is used to obstruct Congressional oversight. the courts are used to undercut the Voting Rights Act, all to subvert the democratic process and overturn the will of the people.

We urged President Biden to put the full moral prestige and the power of the presidency behind voting rights, to help frame the debate for the American people. As a candidate, he talked about the soul of the nation. No issue cuts to the soul of the nation more than voting rights.

I was glad to hear President Biden and Vice President Harris reconfirm their determination to push for passage of the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act – two vital bills that would protect voting rights and the integrity of the elections process.

We also discussed the frustrating delay in securing passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which is currently being negotiated in the Senate. Days after the meeting, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who is leading the negotiations for Senate Republicans, said he hopes a police reform package is approved by the end of this month.

We look forward to continuing the discussion and holding the President and Vice President to their commitments.


Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League.

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