MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson spent part of the day speaking at Alabama State University as part of a lecture series called "African Americans and the Transformative Power of the Ballot."
Thompson was the keynote speaker at the event, part of ASU's E.D. Nixon Institute and sponsored by ASU's National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture.
The judge spoke on how black voting power has helped to transform the American political landscape.
Thompson called Montgomery "Ground Zero for the right to vote" and said "it's where people made a serious struggle to gain the right to vote and it's a place where after having gained that right to vote, to make challenges to, making sure or making efforts to make sure that that vote counted."
The judge said challenges are different now than they were decades ago, but there are still challenges, though more subtle.
"It's one thing to, in the old days when you would go to the ballot, go to a voting place, you know there were people there literally would use violence against you. Now, those types of obstacles no longer exist, but the challenges are still there," Thompson said. "There are still people who want to take away your right to have your vote count and to count effectively."
Thompson said despite overseeing numerous voting rights cases in his career, he doesn't find anything he's done to be historic. "I just did what I was supposed to do. That's it."
"ASU has been involved in voting rights for decades," said Dr. Dorothy Autrey, the event's program chair. "ASU became the center of events surrounding the Selma-to-Montgomery Voting Rights March as they took place in Montgomery. Today, we understand that the black vote is a factor in our progress."
In addition to Judge Thompson's speaking, the program also took time to honor ASU civil rights activists who took part in the 1965 Selma-to- Montgomery Voting Rights campaign, as well as announcing the launch of the National Center's Voting Rights Research Repository Project.
"The VRRRP will build collections and serve as a repository of information pertaining to voting rights," said Autrey.