Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) speaks to the audience on the final day of the Democratic… (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images )
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Civil rights veteran John Lewis tonight urged African Americans to turn out to polls this fall as never before in defiance of new voting requirements he equated with those of the Jim Crow South.
“Do you want to go back?” the Georgia congressman asked the crowd at the Democratic National Convention. “Or do you want to keep America moving forward?”
New voter laws raise the requirements to vote in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and several other states, where their sponsors say they are intended to fight voter fraud.
But political analysts say they will have the effect of making it harder for minority voters to cast their ballots, a result Lewis exhorted Democrats at the convention to stand against.
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Standing before them as one of the original Freedom Riders, a man once beaten bloody, Lewis told the story of a man who came to his congressional office and asked his forgiveness.
“I am one of the people who beat you,” he said to Lewis. “Will you forgive me?”
He forgave him, Lewis said, and they embraced, a sign of how far the country has come. A country that has elected an African American man to serve as president shouldn’t take a step backward this year, he said.
“I’ve seen this before. I lived this before,” he said. “Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote.…
“We must not be silent,” said Lewis. “We must stand up speak up and speak out.”
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