Fifty years ­ af ter the voting rights movement, Barack Obama, the nation’s
first black president, returned to Selma to pay homage. From a platform
in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on that warm March weekend, Obama
called Selma one of the “places and moments in Amer­ i ­ ca where this nation’s
destiny has been deci­ded.” He praised the actions of ­those, like Amelia Boyn-
ton, who made up the movement and compelled President Lyndon Johnson
to act. The events that tran­spired in Selma ­ were the essence of Amer­ i ­ ca.
“What greater form of patriotism is ­there than the belief that Amer­ i ­ ca is not
yet finished,” Obama asked, “that each successive generation can look upon
our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this na-
tion to more closely align with our highest ideals?” The Voting Rights Act,
a product of campaigns like the one in Selma, opened the way for black
Americans—­and all Americans—to inhabit boardrooms, courtrooms, and
po­liti­cal offices.1
But celebrating the successes of Selma was not enough. Two years ear-
lier, the Supreme Court had struck down Section  5 of the Voting Rights
Act in its Shelby v. Holder decision. This section was the ­ legal grounding
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