Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Truth to power in a letter:
Coretta Scott King on Jeff Sessions


IN CASE YOU missed it yesterday, the Trump travesty of the day didn’t take place at the White House — not the one that dominated that news cycle, anyway. It happened on the Senate floor, when Senate Majority Leader/chinless wonder Mitch McConnell (with 49 other Republicans) silenced Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren while she was speaking on the Senate floor.

Well, not just speaking, really. Warren does that very well on her own. But she was actually reading a letter into the Senate record on Tuesday, the day before the vote to decide whether Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the Alabama Republican senator and segregationist, becomes the next Attorney General of the United States and furthers the intention of his master, president-presumptive Donald Trump, and the right-wing ideologues on Capitol Hill: namely, to do everything they can to roll back social progress, retard efforts to achieve equality, and stymie any of the fragile advances made in race relations as far and as long as they possibly can.

The letter was written by Coretta Scott King, routinely appendaged in history to her husband, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., but very much a drum major for justice in her own right.

She wrote the letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond in March 1986, to express her objection to one Jeff Sessions (then a United States Attorney) being named to a federal judgeship.

The letter, and a full statement of her opposition, were written because of Sessions' segregationist leanings; his record of voter intimidation; his periodic incivilities including peppering of his speech with the N-word; and (then and now) his strongly suggested desire to overturn or dismantle many of the social advances that Coretta King’s husband is now and will always be known for.

Rachel read some of it on MSNBC. Kathy Najimy, Sherrilynn Ifill and Debra Messing read it in three GIF tweets that circulated on Tuesday. Here’s the text of the letter:

◊ ◊ ◊

Dear Senator Thurmond:

I write to express my sincere opposition to the confirmation of Jefferson B. Sessions as a federal district court judge for the Southern District of Alabama. My professional and personal roots in Alabama are deep and lasting. 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.

I regret that a long-standing commitment prevents me from appearing in person to testify against this nominee. However, I have attached a copy of my statement opposing Mr. Sessions’ confirmation and I request that my statement as well as this be made a part of the hearing record.

I do sincerely urge you to oppose the confirmation of Mr. Sessions.


The vote on the Sessions nomination to be the nation's top law enforcement officer is today, Wednesday. Coretta Scott King passed in January 2006, almost exactly 11 years ago. Few things you'll read anywhere this year will matter as much; few votes will resonate more deeply and indelibly than the one today.


Read her full statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee here.

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