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By 1965 concerted efforts to break the grip of state disfranchisement had been under way for some time James Neal Jersey Womens , but had achieved only modest success overall and in some areas had achieved no success at all.

The murder of voting-rights activists in Philadelphia, Mississippi, gained national attention, along with numerous other acts of violence and terrorism.

Finally, the unprovoked attack on March 7, 1965, by state troopers on peaceful marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma Johnny Gaudreau Jersey Womens , Alabama, on their way to Montgomery, persuaded the President and Congress to overcome Southern legislators' resistance to allowing the African American vote.

President Johnson issued a call for a strong voting rights law and hearings began soon thereafter on the bill that would become the Voting Rights Act. On the dawn of its 40th Anniversary, Congress is preparing for the reauthorization of key provisions in the Voting Rights Act that will expire in 2007.

Margaret Block remembers going door to door in rural Charleston, Mississippi over forty years ago at the age of 17 and "right out of high school" to hand out voting rights pamphlets.

?People would see me coming and close their doors. They were really afraid. It was much worse than Greenwood,? Block said, referring to a town in the neighboring county where her civil rights activist brother Sam coordinated voting rights efforts among disenfranchised blacks.

?We were always competitive. When Sam said he was going to Greenwood Michael Frolik Jersey Authentic , I decided I'd do him one better by going to Charleston, since it had a worse reputation. Now when I think about it, that was not a very good idea.?

Margaret Block had not been working for very long, in fact, when a Klansman tried to kill her with a knife in front of the county courthouse. ?I was pulled away by a Justice Department agent. They usually didn't protect us. But he did this time, and I remain grateful.?

Soon afterwards, a tiny Charleston woman saved Block's life when Klansmen were ?on their way into town? looking for her. This time Block's protection quickly came from Birdia Keglar Noah Hanifin Jersey Authentic , Tallahatchie County's first black to vote since the days of the state's second Reconstruction, a short period of freedom for Mississippi's African Americans following the Civil War.

?I was handing out voting pamphlets downtown and a man came running up to me and said I needed to go to Birdia's office right away. She managed a funeral home and when I got there, Birdia sneaked me away in the back of a hearse. Someone had called Birdia and warned her that the Klan was on the way to get me.?

For several days Margaret Block hid out in a small cave outside of Charleston until Charlie Cobb and Ivanhoe Donaldson ? both SNCC workers from Howard University ? came to pick her up and take her to Greenwood and then to the Brewer's farm near the tiny cotton hamlet of Glendora, also in Tallahatchie County. There, she kept working on voting rights in the rest of the county until leaving for Jackson and finally California in 1966.

BIRDIA BEATRICE CLARK KEGLAR, a small and courageous African American woman with dark piercing eyes, was well known in the Mississippi Delta [a northwestern region of Mississippi] for speaking out against racism Cam Talbot Jersey Authentic , even when she was very afraid to do so.

Born June 1, 1908, in the hill country of rural Tallahatchie County, she grew up on land purchased by her mother's early relatives after the Civil War. The land stayed in the family and this was a true source of pride. Family members picked their own cotton, grew their own vegetables, and raised their own livestock on this family plot.

?We never picked cotton for other people ? just for our family. We had good food to eat, and we were fortunate Elias Lindholm Jersey Authentic ,? said Robert Keglar, her son. Birdia was married young, and the marriage did not last. Her husband left home when Robert was five, so mom and grand-mom raised him, and W.T. Gray, his uncle, also played an important role in this family's lives.

They were a family of achievers. Gray Travis Hamonic Jersey Authentic , a bright, self-taught teacher, often discussed civil rights at the dinner table. ?And this was back in the 1930s,? Robert Keglar said, ?when black children typically attended small country schools overseen by poorly educated teachers.?

The Gray family had a strong tradition of learning and teaching, a skill that Robert's uncle passed on to him. Birdia Keglar went into business instead of teaching, managing a funeral home in Charleston.

Following another family tradition Sean Monahan Jersey Authentic , she was an early civil rights advocate, not easy for any black person of those times, particularly in Tallahatchie County, one of the Delta's strongholds for the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the most violent of the Klan organizations.

While most of Mississippi's Klan activity took place in Southern counties, this part of the hill country at the edge of the Delta boasted Klan members as well as neighboring Leflore, Sunflower Mikael Backlund Jersey Authentic , Quitman and other Delta counties. [A Klansman from Leflore County in 1963 killed Mississippi civil rights leader, Medgar Evers.]

Birdia Keglar's fighting spirit frequently roused the attention of Sheriff Ellett R. Dogan, ?notorious for his violence to Negroes.? One Charleston native, a close friend of Keglar's and later the county's NAACP president, described the late sheriff as a ?paternalistic man, who sometimes acted like he cared? about Keglar and other black citizens.

?Dogan might put his arm around you and tell you not to worry, because there would always be a meal for you and a place to live. But you had to be a good Negro to get this kind of treatment from him TJ Brodie Jersey Authentic ,? Lucy Boyd said.

?When he was bad, he was very bad. And that was how it was most of the time in Charleston. I remember a time when I was younger and a black man accidentally bumped a white woman's arm ? just bumped her. This was on the sidewalk, and the woman's husband beat the hell out o

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