READ: Coretta Scott King’s 1986 Letter Condemning Jeff Sessions

By Sameer Rao Jan 11, 2017

Following concerns about its public unavailability, The Washington Post published late racial justice leader Coretta Scott King’s damning 1986 letter opposing Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions‘ U.S. District Court nomination yesterday (January 10). 

The Post credited Buzzfeed for "first report[ing] the existence of the letter." Buzzfeed reported yetsterday that then-Senate Judiciary Committee chariman and longtime segregationist Strom Thurmond didn’t enter King’s letter into the congressional record during or after Sessions’ failed judgeship confirmation hearings.

King’s 10-page letter referenced Sessions’ earlier unsuccessful prosecution of civil rights activists, including King’s contemporary Albert Turner, for voter fraud while serving as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. The Post did not confirm how the missive was uncovered. From the letter: 

In these investigations, Mr. Sessions, as U.S. Attorney, exhibited an eagerness to bring to trial and convict three leaders of the Perry County Civic League including Albert Turner despite evidence clearly demonstrating their innocence of any wrongdoing. Furthermore, in initiating the case, Mr. Sessions ignored allegations of similar behavior by Whites, choosing instead to chill the exercise of the franchise by Blacks by his misguided investigations. In fact, Mr. Sessions sought to punish older Black civil rights activists, advisors and colleagues of my husband [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.], who had been key figures in the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

"Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly Black voters," summarized King in the letter’s cover page. "For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship."

The Post reports that the letter, along with accusations of Sessions’ racist interpersonal conduct, contributed to the rejection of Sessions’ nomination. The letter re-emerges as Sessions appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee once again—this time as President-elect Donald Trump‘s nominee for attorney general, the position tasked with enforcing anti-discrimination laws.

Sessions downplayed past controversies during his hearing yesterday, saying that he understands the effect "systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters." But that rhetoric did not dissuade protestors. Salon reported yesterday that several people interrupted the hearing and were ejected by the police. The interrupters included two people ironically dressed as Ku Klux Klan members and representatives of feminist advocacy group Code Pink.

Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Representative John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Congressional Black Caucus chairman Representative Cedric Richmond (D-La.) are slated to testify during day two of Sessions’ hearing.

Read King’s full letter here.

(H/t The New York Times)