‘I’m coming back to Selma to start a movement’

Katie explores the historic struggle of Black enfranchisement

Sheyann Webb-Christburg was eight years old when she first met Martin Luther King, Jr. It was late 1964 and Dr. King was in Selma, Alabama, to organize a voter registration campaign to draw attention to the need for legislation that would ensure Black Americans could safely and freely vote, because in the 1960s, particularly in Southern states like Alabama, that was certainly not the case. “Black folks couldn’t vote,” Sheyann’s father said when asked if he had ever cast a ballot.

On this episode of Turnout with Katie Couric, Katie explores the historic struggle of Black enfranchisement — from the moments of brief political prosperity during Reconstruction, to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the election of President Barack Obama, and the ongoing fight to restore voting rights to people with past convictions. Woven throughout the episode is Sheyann’s story of being Martin Luther King’s smallest Freedom Fighter and what she witnessed on that Bloody Sunday in Selma in 1965. Katie also interviews Desmond Meade, President and Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, about his inspiring life story as a formerly homeless returned citizen who in 2018 helped restore voting rights to 1.4 million Floridians.

More about the guests and organizations featured in this episode: Sheyann Webb-Christburg, civil rights activist, youth advocate and co-author of the book and movie “Selma, Lord, Selma.” Gilda Daniels, law professor at the University of Baltimore law school, litigation director at the Advancement Project, and author of “Uncounted: The Crisis of Voter Suppression in America.” Dr. Carol Anderson, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory University, author of several books including, “One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy.” Desmond Meade, president and executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and author of “Let My People Vote: My Battle to Restore the Civil Rights of Returned Citizens.” Annette Scott, a volunteer with The League of Women Voters, working primarily with the New Jersey Reentry Corporation leading voter registration education.

Content warning: This episode contains descriptions of violence that some listeners might find disturbing.