In March 1965, Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma served as the starting line of the two famous marches toward Montgomery that propelled the voting rights movement into the national consciousness. Four months later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law, ushering in a new era of increased access to the polls for African-Americans and other minorities across the South and beyond. On Saturday, a new voting rights effort kicked off inside that historic church, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once spoke and Selma marchers nursed their wounds after being beaten by state troopers near the Edmund Pettus Bridge 52 years ago.
The fledgling endeavor is aimed at spreading the word that a new state law passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Kay Ivey in May granted thousands of convicted felons across Alabama the right to register – or re-register – to vote.
Two advocacy groups are co-hosting a series of “restoration clinics” across the state aimed at getting as many disenfranchised felons as possible back on the voting rolls. The nuts and bolts of those clinics, which are being organized by Legal Services Alabama (LSA) and the Alabama chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), were a major topic of discussion at the Saturday workshop in Selma.