Feb. 15, 1965, Selma, Alabama — moments before the portly sheriff wielded his billy club to batter the Rev. C. T. Vivian’s face.

“You can keep the club in your hand, but you cannot beat down justice,” insisted the fearless reverend, facing down the notorious Sheriff Jim Clark while leading a demonstration for voting rights at the Dallas County Courthouse. Clark said afterward he didn’t “remember hitting him." But the sheriff regularly assaulted nonviolent civil rights activists with both billy clubs and cattle prods.

A month after that courthouse incident, Clark and his all-white posse captured national attention when he joined Alabama State Troopers in a violent attack on voting rights marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The unarmed protestors— led by then 25-year-old John Lewis — were brutally beaten and teargassed on what became known as Bloody Sunday.

The horror of the violence shown on national TV stirred ordinary Americans and gave President Lyndon Johnson the moral capital he needed to push through legislation on voting rights. Bipartisan support — though not from many Southern lawmakers — helped the bill pass. For many years, the 1965 Voting Rights Act was an effective tool to strike down the state and local laws known collectively as Jim Crow.

You have to know the history to understand why Georgia’s new voting law represents, as President Joe Biden characterized it, “Jim Crow for the 21st century.” The law is voting suppression 2.0 for modern times. It requires certain kinds of government identification to voten — not typically owned by low income and minority communities. And it shortens early voting days. The law also makes it illegal to offer food or water to would-be voters standing in long lines to cast their ballots. Election officials closed polling places across the state, leaving even fewer available in mostly Black communities. The long lines are a discriminatory signature of Black voting areas — but not in mostly white communities where there are more polling places relative to the population and voters rarely stand in line.

But that bit of legalized cruelty doesn’t matter as much as another provision in the law, which allows the State Election Board to remove county election boards and replace them with an interim election manager. Translation: If the county election board doesn’t go along with, say, finding 11,780 votes, the State Board members can fire them, potentially overturning legitimate election results. May I remind you that Trump’s courtroom henchmen did not challenge the 2020 presidential voting results in mostly white communities; the Big Lie was targeted at Black voters.

The new Jim Clark, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, signed the bill surrounded by his own posse of all- white male legislators — underneath a painting of Georgia’s Callaway Plantation, where more than 100 enslaved people worked the land. And when State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta — a Black woman — knocked on the door so she could bear witness to the integrity atrocity, she was handcuffed and dragged off to jail!

Don’t tell me it’s not 1965.

Georgia’s law is a blueprint for 43 Republican backed bills — now in state houses across the country — aimed at wresting the ballot from voters they have previously stigmatized and harmed. Note to Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C. — if as you say, “Every time a Republican does anything, we’re a racist,” you might want to get your fellow Republicans to stop crafting racist legislation.

Sheriff Jim Clark’s blows couldn’t keep a bloodied Rev. C. T. Vivian down. He got up from the ground, repeating, “We’ve come to register to vote!" So too did a beaten John Lewis get up from the bridge in Selma to become a persistent advocate for voting rights legislation. Be clear: Those of us benefitting from the near-death sacrifices of the late Congressman John Lewis and the late Rev. C. T. Vivian are galvanizing against Jim Crow’s latest iteration.

Your state’s rights billy club is no match for our righteous anger. We won’t let you beat down justice.