New York Law School

Racial Justice Project Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of Congressman John Lewis

Today the NYLS Racial Justice Project filed an amicus brief on behalf of Congressman John Lewis in Shelby County v. Holder, a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in February.

Congressman Lewis is recognized as one of the “Big Six” leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, along with Dr. King, Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph, James Farmer and Roy Wilkins. He was one of the planners and keynote speakers at the March on Washington in August 1963.

On March 7, 1965, Congressman Lewis led one of the most dramatic protests of the Civil Rights Movement. The day came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” That day Congressman Lewis led protestors over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. At the end of the bridge, they were met by Alabama State Troopers. When the marchers stopped to pray, the police discharged tear gas and mounted troopers charged the demonstrators, beating them with night sticks. Congressman Lewis was severely beaten and his skull was fractured. Today, political historians and constitutional scholars acknowledge that Bloody Sunday was the main impetus for President Lyndon Johnson submitting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to Congress on March 15, 1965.

The Racial Justice Project’s brief attests to the high price many paid for the enactment of the Voting Rights Act and discusses the mechanisms that continue to suppress, dilute, and infringe upon minorities’ constitutional right to vote. To read the brief, click here.

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