One Man's March: Voting Rights to a Black President

As Connecticut, and states around the country, cast the official votes for Barack Obama’s presidency, Dr. Sedrick Rawlins watched a victorious moment in a journey he started 43 years ago.

More than 40 years passed from the day he fought for voting rights for Black Americans to the day he saw the United States elect our first African-American president in United States.

Rawlins was 38 in 1965 when he, four other Manchester residents and nearly 100 state residents, in all chartered an airplane to fly down to Selma, Ala., heeding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for a public show of support for a four-day, 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery. Rawlins provided dental care to marchers and other poor residents.

Monday, the retired Manchester dentist was present as Connecticut cast its seven electoral college votes for Barack Obama. 

“In my wildest imagination I didn’t think this would happen,” said Rawlins, who was accompanied in the Senate chamber by his wife Alyce and by State Senator Mary Ann Handley (D-Manchester), who hosted the Rawlins’ visit. “This is certainly a proud occasion for all persons.” 
 
Within five months of the march, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which sought to end segregationist Jim Crow voting laws.
 
“When we went down to Selma, we were carrying a torch for all voters – for blacks, whites, young, old, for people of all religions everywhere,” Dr. Rawlins said.  “It was one of the proudest moments of my lifetime.”
 
Rawlins said Obama’s win is a victory on “one front” of the war on racism.
 
“People around the world are looking at us and seeing that there is some success in the dream that was held by Dr. King,” he said. “But I personally feel that we have to ‘keep on keeping on.’ There are so many other things that we have to confront in people’s hearts and minds.”

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