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WASHINGTON DC – Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today, in honor of Black History Month:
“In observation of Black History Month, I would like to reflect on an issue that goes to the very core of our democracy – voting rights.
“This year we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This landmark legislation was the result of the courage and determination of many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including my close friend and colleague Rep. John Lewis.
“Four decades ago, Mr. Lewis led a peaceful march in the city of Selma, Alabama, to bring attention to the human and civil rights unjustly denied to African-Americans. The peaceful marchers were brutally beaten and arrested, and the day became known as ‘Bloody Sunday.’ Its events helped spur the nation into action on civil rights.
“Bloody Sunday is commemorated each year with a pilgrimage to Selma. This year, as I have several times in the past, I will participate with Mr. Lewis and other Members of Congress. The Pilgrimage helps us appreciate the impact of what happened in Selma and I hope that all Americans will join us in celebrating the spirit of courage and determination that day has come to embody.
“However, the battle for voting rights is not over. We must maintain constant vigilance if we are to ensure every eligible voter is able to cast a vote and that vote is counted. In the 2000 presidential election, millions of Americans were essentially disenfranchised, and in 2004, far too many Americans were again wrongfully turned away from the polls. I am closely studying the recent election to see how the Help America Vote Act, of which I was a chief sponsor, improved the election system and where we still have work to do. I applaud the entire Congressional Black Caucus for their work to ensure that all Americans have the right to vote, and I vow to be a partner in this effort.
“Like voting rights, black history is not something to occasionally discuss or review; black history should be celebrated throughout the year. Without the sacrifices and contributions of countless African-Americans, America would not be what it is today.”