The second inauguration of President Obama today opened with an invocation by Myrlie Evers-Williams, the wife of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who was assassinated by a white supremacist in 1963. Mrs. Evers-Williams was the first layperson and first woman to deliver a prayer at an inauguration, and she used the unique opportunity to carry her own civil rights message — a reminder that true equality requires fair voting.
On the steps of the capitol, Evers-Williams reminded members of Congress and the President that civil rights have come a long way “fifty years after the march on Washington”:
We celebrate the spirit of our ancestors which has allowed us to move from a nation of unborn hopes and a history of disenfranchised votes to today’s expression of a more perfect union. We ask too, almighty, that where our path seems blanketed by thorns of oppression and rippled by pains of despair, we ask for your guidance toward the light of deliverance and that the vision of those who came before us and dreamed of this day, that we recognise that their visions still inspire us. They are a great cloud of witnesses, unseen by the naked eye but all around us, thankful that their living was not in vain.
President Obama received the message, and made similar comments during his speech, saying,“Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”
Voting rights is certainly a civil rights issue rooted in race; laws like voter identification disproportionately effect black and Latino voters, threatening to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.