Washington Post: Rep. Terri Sewell, a daughter of Selma, rues her city’s lost promise
SELMA, Ala. — It’s a Sunday afternoon in the midst of a season of remembering here. Rep. Terri A. Sewell is back in her home church, her home district. One by one, senior citizens step forward, and she places medal after medal around their aged necks. Fifty years ago, they marched from this little church to the state capitol in Montgomery, a tense, dangerous journey in the face of segregationist opposition to their right to vote.
These men and women changed history. But they’re also part of her history.
The Rev. F.D. Reese, who invited the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Selma in 1965, steps up. “My high school principal!” Sewell calls out.
Then comes Elmyra Martin Smith, moving gingerly now — Sewell’s old high school guidance counselor. She marched, too.
Next is Sewell’s childhood babysitter.
Her Uncle Boo Boo’s name is called — by Sewell’s mother, Nancy, who is running the program — even though he couldn’t make it today.
Then comes one of her teachers.
The congresswoman, a Democrat, smiles broadly. “I’m home,” she says.
Sewell, 50, born just two months before those marches, was raised here, in the first generation of African Americans to benefit from the hard-fought victories of the civil rights movement. The first black valedictorian of Selma High School, she graduated from Princeton, then Oxford, then Harvard Law, and then to a job on Wall Street — before circling back home to become the first black woman to represent Alabama in Congress.