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Read The Letter Coretta Scott King Wrote In 1986 Condemning Jeff Sessions

She addresses the same concerns we have today

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Jeff Sessions, who you may know as Trump’s pick for attorney general, has served as an Alabama senator for two decades—despite being a known racist and climate change denier. While this may be news to many of us just learning about him, Coretta Scott King recognized Sessions as a danger to basic human rights long before Trump brought him into the spotlight. In 1986, King wrote a letter urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to block the nomination of Sessions as a federal judge. She explained that putting Sessions on the federal bench would “irreparably damage the work” of her husband, Martin Luther King Jr.


Her compelling plea hadn’t been available for public viewing until the The Washington Post published the letter in its entirety this past Tuesday. King’s argument against Sessions’ appointment in 1986 echoes some of the same concerns civil rights organizations have today as the senator makes his way toward Trump’s cabinet. “The irony of Mr. Sessions’ nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given a life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods,” King wrote.

She went on to write in her nine-page account,

“Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.”

King ultimately achieved her goal when the Senate Judiciary Committee denied Sessions’ judicial nomination, a decision that has only happened twice in 50 years, according to CNN. Now, as we look to the future, several organizations have stepped in to block Sessions’ attorney general appointment. MoveOn.org currently has nearly 250,000 signatures on a petition to reject his nomination. Daily Kos has facilitated the delivery of more than 30,000 letters to U.S. senators, with the goal of blocking Sessions’ appointment as well. According to the Huffington Post, more than 1,300 law professors oppose Sessions becoming attorney general—as does the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group.

Hopefully we can channel Coretta Scott King’s eloquence and fortitude in a battle to once again defend human rights and prevent irreparable damage to the progress we’ve made so far.

You can read King’s entire letter by heading over to the Washington Post or checking out the PDF version here.

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