WALLACE — A half-century after the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, African-Americans’ access to the polls is in peril, NAACP leaders said as a five-state protest movement ended its march through South Carolina.
America’s Journey for Justice, an 860-mile walk from Selma, Alabama to the nation’s capital, crossed the state line Saturday on U.S. 1. March leaders passed the baton from South Carolina organizers to their North Carolina counterparts in an afternoon rally at New Hope United Methodist Church near Marlboro County’s Wallace community.
“This is not a parade. This is a protest,” said the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “Jim Crow died, but his son James Crow Esquire and his daughter Janie are still alive.”
The national NAACP campaign centers on reforms in the criminal justice and public education systems and calls for higher working-class wages and a restoration of sections 5 and 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which a divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down in June 2013.
Those sections required jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination to obtain clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice before implementing any election law changes.
“There can be no justice for anyone unless there is justice for everyone,” the Rev. Dian Griffin Jackson said after Saturday’s state-line rally. “That really is true, that’s not just a quote or a nice-sounding saying.”
While marchers turned their attention to North Carolina, national NAACP leaders remained in Cheraw to hold a series of teach-ins at the former S.C. National Guard armory.
The facility, which was transferred to the town of Cheraw last month and will house Cheraw’s public works department, served as an anchor site for the Journey for Justice campaign.
National NAACP President and CEO Cornell William Brooks and NAACP South Carolina President Dr. Lonnie Randolph led a mass meeting on criminal justice reform Aug. 27 at Pee Dee Union Baptist Church.
The armory hosted a youth teach-in Aug. 28, a session on voting rights Saturday, a session on education Sunday, a legislative teach-in Monday and an economic justice educational event Tuesday.
Jackie Ellerbe-Shannon, a town councilwoman and the Cheraw NAACP branch’s community development chair, said Cheraw’s selection as an anchor site recognizes local civil rights leader Levi G. Byrd’s contributions to the struggle for equality.
“We want to show unity,” Ellerbe-Shannon said last week. “We want to show justice for all. We want to show that we are working here together to make sure everyone’s rights are accepted, that everyone is given justice. We want the world to know they are going on this march.”
Reach Editor Corey Friedman at 910-817-2670 and follow him on Twitter @corey_friedman.