Civil Rights

As Representative John R. Lewis said, “Without social movement, without people speaking out, making their voices heard, without moving their feet, sometimes Congress is reluctant to move or to act.” Learn about the different ways the American people communicated with the House during the civil rights movement of the 20th century.

Marching on Constitution Avenue Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Marching on Constitution Avenue

Oral History

John R. Lewis Oral History
John Lewis and other peaceful protestors were brutally attacked by state troopers during a 1965 march in Selma, Alabama. The event became known as “Bloody Sunday,” and played a pivotal role in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Representative Lewis led a congressional pilgrimage to Alabama for over two decades.

Documentary: Selma and the Voting Rights Act of 1965
A documentary that examines the House’s swift legislative response to “Bloody Sunday,” when peaceful protesters were brutally attacked by state troopers.

Oral History Civil Rights Project
An oral history project focused on the House’s role in the civil rights grassroots movement in the 20th century. Includes stories of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, and the anti-apartheid movement.


Letter Responding to the Violence in Selma
A letter from Mrs. E. Jackson of Brooklyn, New York, to her Representative after seeing on television the violent attack on protestors in Selma, Alabama.

Letter Supporting Voting Rights Act
A letter from Mrs. Bertram Jeffrey of Brooklyn, New York, to the chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary regarding voting rights legislation in 1965.

Letter Opposing Voting Rights
A letter to Representative Emanuel Cellar opposing voting rights as Congress considered various pieces of civil rights legislation in 1965.


The House and Civil Rights
A collection of essays examining the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Black Americans in Congress
A series of essays dedicated to the history of Black Americans in Congress, covering 1870 to the present.