Rep. Bennie Thompson, 74, is the longest serving Black elected official in the state of Mississippi. While the House’s Jan 6. Committee continues its hearing on the pro-Trump insurrection, Thompson has seen history unfold as well as repeat itself. He shared his reaction in his latest statement to the committee, according to ABC News.
Thompson embarked on his activism journey at Tugaloo College, per ABC. He worked on grassroots initiatives to help Black people register to vote. After he graduated in 1968, he continued his work as the first Black mayor of Bolton, Miss. The New York Times wrote in 1993 that as state representative, Thompson was linked to the effort to consolidate Black political power following the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
He ain’t backed down before and he certainly won’t now.
“People I know fought and died in this country for me to have the right to represent them and for them to have the right to vote. I’m not going to let any insurrectionist, rioter, crazy person come here and take this pin,” he told CNN last month, referring to the warning his congressional pin would make him a target for rioters.
More on Thompson from ABC News:
“I am from a part of the country where people justified the actions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan and lynching. I’m reminded of that dark history as I hear voices today try and justify the actions of insurrectionists on Jan. 6, 2021,” he said.
He knew democracy wasn’t a given. His father didn’t live to see the day the Civil Rights Act changed access to democracy for Black Americans. And Thompson was raised in Mississippi in the shadow of Jim Crow.
“I take nothing for granted,” he told the Jackson Free Press in 2012. “My first school I attended in this town was called Bolton Colored School. I walked past Bolton School to get to Bolton Colored School. My mama and daddy worked, paid taxes, but their son had to attend an inferior school. That’s history. I don’t ever want history to repeat itself. To that extent, I have always been a champion of making our system of government work for everybody.”
As often as younger generations may complain about the old heads in the government, there are some who are on our side and have been even before we were born. Thompson said leading the investigation into the Capitol riot is a reminder to voters of what they almost lost - a right Black people fought and died for.
For Thompson, this is a full circle moment.
“Our democracy is at stake. We have to defend our democracy. We have to defend our government,” said Thompson via ABC.