Activists remember historic march as they fight for voting rights protections

Image: Black Voters Matter Group Gathers In Selma For March To Montgomery

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Mary Mays Jackson and her brother, Napoleon Mays, were 13 and 15 when they joined the landmark voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 when it arrived in their county, Lowndes.

They did so against the wishes of their mother, who was pregnant at the time.

“I was willing, even at that young age, to die — if it took death for people to get the right to vote,” Jackson, now 70, said in an interview.

The stakes are no less higher now, Jackson and Mays said. The siblings spoke at an event last week in Lowndesboro hosted by Black Voters Matter to raise awareness about the ongoing battle for voting rights in Alabama and across the country. They urged elected officials at all levels to pass voting rights protections and implored people to vote.

“We are fighting that same fight today,” Mays, 72, said during his speech. “We’ve got a lot of history in Lowndes County. And we’ve got a lot of work to do here.” The weeklong commemoration of the 57th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march concluded Friday with a “Fight for the Vote” rally at the state Capitol in Montgomery. Rep. Terri Sewell is Alabama’s lone African American in its seven-member House delegation, even though Black people make up nearly 27 percent of the state’s population. (She’s also the only Democrat.)