Reps. meet in Birmingham for Civil Rights pilgrimage

By Tiffany Glick, Fox 6 Community Web Producer

BIRMINGHAM (WBRC) - For the 11th year in a row, Georgia Representative John Lewis will lead his fellow congressmen and women, and other guests, in retracing the steps that the nation's civil rights leaders took across Alabama 46 years ago.

Lewis and his fellow representatives are leading the Faith and Politics Institute's Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage on the 46th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday," when activists attempted to march across Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge but were met with violent force.  

Alabama Representative Terri Sewell, along with her colleagues from South Carolina, Connecticut and Maryland began the Faith & Politics pilgrimage Friday at the Alabama Power headquarters. Lewis said they would tour historic sites in Birmingham, such as the Civil Rights Institute, the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park. They will travel to Montgomery on Saturday and to Selma on Sunday.

In a press conference Friday, Sewell remarked on the importance of this pilgrimage.  

"I truly believe that in order to really know your history you have to walk and breathe that history," she said. "We in Alabama and in the seventh congressional district are incredibly proud of our history because out of it came so much wonderful opportunity."

Representative Steny Hoyer from Maryland, who has made the pilgrimage seven times, said that as he was growing up in the '60s, Birmingham was a "city of shame" for the country. However, after making those trips, his perception of the city has changed radically.

"I feel it is a time of reflection, of remembrance, but also a time of renewal and revival and recommitment to the fight that continues before us," Hoyer said.

All of the legislators who spoke remarked upon how positive change can come about through constructive non-violence and by not forgetting the indecencies of the past.

Speaking to Sewell, Lewis was especially proud of the change he didn't think would ever come about as he walked across the state in 1965.

"If someone had told me when we were walking across that bridge on March 7, 1965 that I would live to see a beautiful, smart, young black woman, born in Selma, Alabama elected to the House of Representatives, I would have said you're crazy."

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