People For the American Way

Then and Now, Young People are Leading the Fight to Vote 

Then and Now, Young People are Leading the Fight to Vote 

Today marks the 58th anniversary of Bloody Sunday when 600 brave people stood up to oppression and were met with brutal violence at the hands of police. The event led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, key provisions of which were gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.  

It can feel like we’ve come so far from the Edmund Pettus Bridge, but the fact is, voting rights are still under attack, we’re still facing assaults on our freedoms, and we still have an uphill battle against those who want to see us even further disenfranchised. Thankfully, another fact that hasn’t changed in the last 58 years: Young people are still engaged and enthusiastic about fighting for progress and change.  

We’re Still in the Fight for Voting Rights 

Today, the Far Right continues to create barriers to voting rights. New voter ID laws, removal of polling places, excessive wait times, gerrymandering, voter intimidation, and more in their voter suppression toolbox are all challenges to our basic rights as citizens. And it’s all intentional.  

Just as before, the denial of voting rights, no matter how the Right tries to spin it, is about denying certain groups of people a voice in democracy. It’s about telling certain people in no uncertain terms, “Who you are and what you want does not matter to us.” That’s why we’ve fought so hard to make our voices heard and why we’ll continue to fight. And if you need someone to shout the loudest, fight the hardest, and make those in power take notice, look to the youth.  

Young Activists Have Always Led the Way 

John Lewis was 25 when he marched on Bloody Sunday. Dolores Huerta was 25 when she began lobbying, organizing, and training migrant workers to fight against exploitative working conditions. Historically, young people have activated and galvanized massive movements for change. That should inspire us all to believe in ourselves and trust that we too can accomplish the extraordinary, no matter how young or old we are. We’re all in this fight together because basic rights like voting affect us all. That fact should excite us, unite us, and give us more reasons to look to each other for support and inspiration.  

We Must Listen to Our Young People Today 

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Yolanda Renee King, the granddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, about her work and the work of this generation to protect the right to vote. I asked her what advice she would give to young people like herself who want to get involved in the movement but aren’t sure where to start. Her advice was clear: Find what you’re good at and use those talents to help the movement.

That felt so insightful to me. When we think about the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, we think of that iconic picture of John Lewis. He was undoubtedly an exceptional individual who deserves his place among the greatest leaders of the movement, but he wasn’t alone. As I’ve written about before, the fight for equality and equity is a magic made by many. I promise you have talents that can help. I believe you have a spirit that is valuable. I know this fight is challenging and frightening at times, but I also know we will win.  

So, as we look back at another year of fighting for our rights, and as we remember and respect the battles of the past, whether you’re young now or just young at heart, keep fighting. We’ll all get there together.  


Bloody Sunday, voting rights, Voting Rights Act