"I gave a little blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge to dramatize to the nation that people of color were denied the right to vote. I was hit in the head by a State Trooper with a nightstick. I thought I saw death. I thought I was going to die. Today, thousands of Americans are still being denied the right to vote, and the protections granted by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are being eroded. We can do better, and we must do better. We must honor the sacrifices of all those who marched, sacrificed, bled, and died, by restoring the Voting Rights Act and guaranteeing that no person is denied their right to vote." - the late Congressman John Lewis
Today is Election Day 2020. Of my 52 years on this earth, this is by far the most important election. I woke up thinking about the ancestors and elders who fought and died to have the right to cast my vote. Voting is a privilege.
While there are some states suppressing votes (I.D, felony convictions, limited poll places, etc.), we owe it to the past that paid the price with their blood, sweat, tears, marches, walking several miles, and even death, not to be silent, but exercise the right to vote.
While standing in line for two hours reading "Mark Clark: Soul of a Black Panther," by his sister Gloria Clark Jackson, I felt proud of casting my vote. If you don't vote, shame on you.
Before you complain, I have a question to ask you, "But Did You Vote?"
On Election Day, remember some of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for African Americans' right to vote.
JULIUS "JULY" PERRY
(Credit: Orlando Sentinel/Associated Press)
Julius "July" Perry was one of 50 residents of Ocoee, FL, that was lynched trying to vote. He was a barber, deacon, and activist in the Ocoee community. A July Perry marker was installed in 2019.
July Perry is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Orlando, FL, in the black section of Section K's cemetery. His grave was unmarked until 2002, when a headstone was installed.
(Credit: Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University)i
On March 25, 1965, Viola Liuzzo was murdered after participating in the Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery. While taking an activist home, Leroy Moten, who is African American, a car pulled up, shot, and killed Liuzzo. When the klansmen checked the car, Moten pretended to be dead.
(Location where Viola Liuzzo was murdered.)
The FBI arrested four men; one was an FBI agent, Gary Thomas Rowe, Jr. Rowe later testified against the three klansmen. They were acquitted by an all-white jury but was later convicted of federal civil rights violations.
Liuzzo is buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield, MI.
Maceo Snipes, a World War II veteran, faced racism and segregation while serving his country, was murdered on July 18, 1946, for exercising his right to vote in Georgia. He was shot to death by the KKK in front of his family's home. He was the first African American in Taylor County, GA, to vote.
In 2007 he received a military burial, with an empty casket at a church cemetery. His body is buried somewhere in an unmarked grave in Taylor County. There are efforts to locate his remains.
REV. GEORGE W. LEE
Rev. George Washington Lee, entrepreneur and minister was one of the first African Americans registered to vote in Humphreys County, MS since Reconstruction and leader of the NAACP in Belzoni, MS.
Lee was murderd May 7, 1955 after refusing to remove his name from the voting rolls. While Lee was driving, a convertible pulled up and fired three shots hitting Lee in the jaw. Lee died before he made it to the hospital.
Robert W. Lee is buried Green Grove Baptist Church cemetery.
(Credit: Zinnprojected. org/Jet Magazine - May 26, 1955.
VERNON DAHMER, SR.
"If you don’t vote, you don't count,"
January 10, 1966, Vernon Dahmer, Sr., president of the NAACP in Hattiesburg, MS, was murdered for encouraging African Americans to vote by the KKK. His home, car and family grocery store was set on fire and bombed. His wife and children were able to escape, but Dahmer was severly burned from the waist up and the flames seared his lungs while making sure his family made it out of the house safely. He died the following day.
(Credit: Associated Press)
Dahmer, is buried at Shady Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Eastabuchie, MS.
hie, Jones County, Mississippi
Fourteen klansmen were charged with murder, arson, and conspiracy of Dahmer. Four were convicted, one pled guilty but served no more than four years. In 1998, the Imperial Wizard of the KKK, Sam Bowers, who ordered the attack on Dahmer, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison at age 74. He died in prison in a hospital in Parchman, MS in 2006.
(Credit: Unitarian Universalist Association)
On March 11, 1965, Boston minister, James Reeb died from his injuries when he was brutally beaten with a club by a group of white men after attending a mass meeting regarding the Selma march, which inflicted massive head injuries. He died at a Birmingham hospital two days later.
Elmer Cook, William Stanley Hoggle and Namon Hoggle were charged with first-degree murder of James Reeb and were later acquitted.
Reeb was cremated and ashes scattered. Per his wishes, he was cremated with his ashes blown over the Wyoming Prairie
Lamar Smith, a 63 year old WWI veteran and farmer was shot in front of a crowded courthouse lawn in Brookhaven MS for trying to organize and register African Americans to vote on August 13, 1955.
Three men were arrested in the death of Smith. A grand jury of 20 white men declined to indict the murderers and their cases were dismissed. No one was prescuted in Smith's murder.
Herbert Lee, a farmer who helped African Americans to register to vote, was killed on September 25, 1961, in broad daylight by E. H. Hurst, a childhood friend and state legistalor in Liberty, MS.
Hurst claimed shooting Lee was in self-defense. An all-white jury ruled that the murder was jusitified. Hurst was never convicted for the crime.
Lee is buried at Mount Pilgrim Cemetery in Amite County, MS.
HARRY AND HARRIETTE MOORE
On Christmas Day in 1951, Harry T. and Harriette Moore came home from celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary when the KKK bombed their home in Mims, FL.
Both Harry and Harriette were educators and civil rights activists who helped establish an NAACP chapter in Brevard County and helped thousands of African Americans to register to vote. Their slogan was “A Voteless Citizen is a Voiceless Citizen.”
Harry and Harriette Moore are buried at LaGrange Cemetery in Mims, FL. Harry Moore died on the way to the Orlando hospital that accepted blacks that was 50 miles away. Harriette died nine days later from her injuries. The crime remains unsolved.
JAMES CHANEY, MICHAEL SCHWERNER & ANDREW GOODMAN
On June 21, 1964, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were murdered near Philadelpha, in Nashoba County, Mississippi. They volunteered to register black voters in Mississippi during Freedom Summer 1964.
On June 23, the station wagon the young men had been driving was found burned. Forty-five days later, on August 4, the three men's bodies were found buried in an earthen dam.
October 1964, FBI arrested 18 men but the state prosecutors refused to try the case due to lack of evidence. The federal government took over and the FBI arrested the 18 men. In 1967, seven men were convicted on federal conspiracy charges and was sentenced between three to ten years, none of them served no more than six years. An all-white jury acquitted the other eight defendants.
Sam Bowers, the Imperial Wizard of the KKK, who ordered the attack on the death of Vernon Dahmer, was also involved in the killings of Andrew Goodman, Michael H. Schwerner, and James Earl Chaney and served six years in federal prison.
James Chaney is buried Okatibbee Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery. Due to vandalism, his grave is protected by metal beams.
Michael Schwerner was cremated, and Andrew Goodman is buried at Mount Judah Cemetery in Ridgewood, NY, Plot 2-1-24-R02.
President Obama posthumously honored James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.