When a group of high school students recently faced an urgent deadline, they had an inspiration: Remember your audience. They drew as well on what they’d learned from three years of hard work: Never. Give. Up.
The deadline was the culmination of a project started by earlier members of a Hightstown, N.J., Advanced Placement government class. They’d been struck by how many cases remained unsolved from the civil rights era – how much justice had been denied, how many families had never gotten answers. So the students dug in. Their bill got the backing of Sen. Doug Jones (D) of Alabama and Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas. It overwhelmingly passed both houses. They just needed one more thing to prevent it from dying as a new Congress started in January: President Trump’s signature.
So they started tweeting – at the president and anyone they could think of who might have his ear. And their message got through.
Their work is now law: the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act, which creates a national archive of related records. Tahj Linton, a senior, told The Associated Press he hopes it’s a harbinger of things to come. “If we can start to solve some of the racial problems that were never really closed in the past decades … maybe we can start to work on the ones that are happening today and make a difference about it.”
The act is particularly timely. Just check out Patrik Jonsson’s in-depth report today on the rising number of cold cases in the United States. Some 250,000 have piled up since 1980, once again disproportionately affecting people of color. But some cities are stepping up – making progress that could help to ease decades of distrust.