Black American Pride: Rep. Terri Sewell

The congresswoman from Alabama on how far blacks have come and how much further we have to go.

Rep. Terri Sewell (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

TS: For every three steps we make forward, there is a potential for four steps back. The rights we have worked so hard to attain are under a constant state of vulnerability. Our legacy is one that reflects a dedication and love for our country that hasn’t always been reciprocated.

Even when our country has not treasured and had faith in us, we have cherished and believed in it. We have never lost our faith, though, and we have benefited from that dedication and commitment to justice, equality and freedom for all Americans. Our victories in 1964 and 1965 were a direct reflection of the struggles we went through to have the equality promised by the Constitution, those democratic ideals of equality under the law for the assurances of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The Tuskegee Airmen and the Montford Point Marines are just now being honored for their service to our great nation. This is a reflection of the progress we have made but a reminder of the work left to do to make sure that their sacrifices are fully vindicated.

We still have to fight for our right to vote, as made evident by the Supreme Court’s decision last week to overturn Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.

TR: What’s missing from the conversation about African Americans?

TS: Great strides have been made, but much work needs to be made in regards to black economic empowerment. We have much work to do to minimize the discrepancies in employment, salary attainment and educational attainment for all African Americans.

TR: What’s the best thing about being American?

TS: The great democracy we live in provides opportunities for all Americans to succeed. When Americans are provided with the resources they need to succeed, they are able to reach their full potential. My story is a reflection of this truth. I was once a congressional intern, and now, over 20 years later, I am a member of Congress.

As a little black girl educated in Selma, Ala., this would have never been possible had I not grown up in America. My story is only possible in America. With hard work, dedication and faith, I was able to achieve what I could have never imagined possible. The quest for the American dream is uniquely American.

Previously in the series: Black American Pride: Marcia Anderson

Aja Johnson is an editorial fellow at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.