Fifty years ago, on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law — a landmark piece of legislation breaking down barriers across the South that prevented countless African Americans from voting.
This afternoon, President Obama hosted a discussion here at the White House to mark the Act's 50th anniversary, featuring Congressman John Lewis, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry, and others.
If you missed it, watch the President's remarks below, followed by the conversation between Congressman Lewis and Melissa Harris-Perry:
Earlier today, President Obama wrote a post on Medium reflecting on the anniversary, and reiterating the importance of every citizen having an equal opportunity to vote and make their voice heard.
"Fifty years ago," he wrote, "registering to vote across much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap. And while the Voting Rights Act broke down many of the formal and more ridiculous barriers to voting, today — in 2015 — there are still too many barriers to the vote, and too many people trying to erect new barriers to the vote."
The President has called on Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act, and praised those who are coming together around this issue — such as the NAACP, which is mobilizing people for a 40-day march from Selma to D.C. in support of voting rights and other critical issues.
Congressman John Lewis also sent a message to the White House email list this morning, sharing his own experiences from the "Bloody Sunday" march in Selma, Alabama that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and reiterating the need to restore the Act today.
He also implored every citizen to get out and vote whenever they have the opportunity.
"When it comes time to get out and vote," he wrote, "we have to do so. The right to vote is the most powerful nonviolent, transformative tool we have in a democracy, and the least we can do is take full advantage of the opportunity to make our voices heard."
See more highlights from today's activities at WhiteHouse.gov/Voting-Rights-Act, where you can also learn more about the history of the Voting Rights Act.
P.S. -- Follow along this evening as Congressman Lewis takes over the @WhiteHouse Instagram, sharing photos about how the Voting Rights Act came to be.
Hello, I am Congressman John Lewis. In honor of today's 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, I'll be taking over the White House Instagram to share some moments that tell the story of how the law came to be, and the fight that lies ahead on removing barriers to voting. During the movement we did not have all of this unbelievable technology. We did not have the internet, or cell phones, or even a fax machine. But we used what we had to organize, and to get our message out. We must use these new resources to bring about a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas, and to build a world at peace with itself. Here you can see several of the Freedom Riders, myself included, sitting together strategizing in Montgomery, AL in 1961. In the upper right you can see James Farmer, the head of CORE and organizer of the Freedom Rides. #VRA50