By Mary Wade Burnside
Times West Virginian
The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” sermon approaches later this year, but Elizabeth Dooley, speaking Sunday during an event honoring the activist, used another King-penned speech, one that evoked the recent presidential election.
During the 2012 presidential race in which Democrat Barack Obama faced Republican Mitt Romney, Dooley said as part of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration at Morning Star Baptist Church in Fairmont, some tactics were employed that were reminiscent of times when blacks had to fight for the right to vote in the 1950s and ’60s.
“There were others that wanted to suppress women’s ability to make choices,” Dooley said. “And there were others who wanted to change the election rules through voter fraud, which, by all accounts, is against the law.
“The voter fraud quickly made its way to the 2012 elections. In Florida and Virginia and Indiana, fraudulent phone calls falsely advertising the ability to vote by phone. Billboards displaying discriminatory messages toward minorities.”
More than six years before the March on Washington, as the nation was contemplating what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1957, King made a speech called “Give Us the Ballot” during another Washington-based demonstration, the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom.
“And here’s what he said in his speech,” said Dooley, a Fairmont native and the associate provost for undergraduate academic affairs at West Virginia University.
“‘But even more, all types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition. And so our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote.’”