Civil Rights Conference

By: Mike McDaniel
By: Mike McDaniel

Nestled inside a building on the campus of Tougaloo College in Jackson, a group of folks are doing something Mississippians do best, telling their stories.

"We were arrested and they had to bring the chief of police out there," said one man as he told his story to those seated around him.

Those stories come from across the state, real life accounts of the struggles during the civil rights movement in Mississippi.

"We want to get their stories on the record. We're trying to document the work that they did," said organizer Bob Moses.

Moses is leading the two day "We the People" conference designed to reflect on the past and address the unfinished needs ahead. Two of those needs he says are education and voting rights.

"What we want to get at is how do we move forward with the idea of both the constitutional right to vote and the idea of a constitutional right to quality public school education," said Moses.

On the voting front, the sixties proved to be a pivotal time.

"1960 was a dishonest, corrupt system of self government. That's all changed with the Voting Rights Act," said former assistant attorney general John Doar.

Doar was working in the U.S. Department of Justice during the civil rights movement. Advocates say he was an ally to Mississippi, enforcing the right to vote under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Doar says it's one of the greatest pieces of legislation the country has ever passed.

"You ask yourself, what legislation has been the most successful, made the biggest change for the better, you're going to say the Voting Right's Act of 1965. No doubt," said Doar.

As the stories now get passed down to students who've only read about the struggles, Moses and Doar both say history and the policies that helped shape it, should become the foundation for changes in the future.

"It reflects that if you work hard, you can bring about change for the better," said Doar.

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