The past is not dead

In 1874, Robert B. Elliott of South Carolina delivers a speech in the U.S. House of Representatives calling for a Civil Rights Act. IMAGE: National Archives
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In 1868, thirty-three Black legislators were elected to the all-white Georgia state legislature for the first time, but since there was no law requiring them to be seated, they were expelled.

Almost one hundred years later, young Black civil rights leader Julian Bond won a seat in the same body but the legislators voted to expel him over his opposition to the Vietnam war.

Now the South is at it again. Black state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, from Tennessee, got the heave-ho for supporting a protest calling for gun safety measures after a mass shooting. Rep. Gloria Johnson, who led that demonstration on the floor of the House, is white and missed expulsion by one vote, which she flatly attributed to racism.

Montana, not to be outdone, barred transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr from speaking on the House floor when she joined a demonstration inside the session to oppose a bill banning gender-affirming healthcare. “Encouraging insurrection” was the charge.

Breaking the “sacred” decorum of state government to make the people’s voice heard should be a cause for celebration, not censure. Stay tuned. These multi-racial fighters will be back next session.