Long before the Civil Rights marches of 1963 thrust Birmingham, Ala. into the national spotlight, black families along one residential street were steadily chipping away at Jim Crow segregation laws — and paying a price for it. As part of our series looking back at the seminal events that changed the nation 50 years ago, NPR's Debbie Elliott paid a visit to Birmingham's Dynamite Hill.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of a landmark Supreme Court decision: Gideon v. Wainwright in which the justices ruled, unanimously, that defendants in criminal cases deserved legal representation in state courts. If defendants could not afford counsel, the state would have to provide it. Those lawyers are known as public defenders. A new HBO documentary, Gideon's Army, follows three black public defenders working in the Deep South. It airs on Monday.
As we've been hearing, the reaction to the court's decision was strong and immediate.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
President Obama said he was deeply disappointed and he called on Congress to act. Civil rights groups say they have lost the most powerful weapon in their effort to ensure equal access at the polls.
MONTAGNE: But as NPR's Pam Fessler reports, some lawmakers in states where voting laws changed - voting law changes were subject to federal approval are saying they're finally free of an unfair burden.
Update at 10:30 a.m. ET. Today's Major Ruling; Key Part Of 1965 Voting Rights Act Is Ruled Unconstitutional:
"By a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court has struck down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that establishes a formula to identify states that may require extra scrutiny by Justice Department," Eyder writes.