Welcome back to Everything’s Political, Worldacad’s news, culture, and politics newsletter! Every Thursday, I’ll take a look at recent stories that seem particularly noteworthy.

Here’s what I’ve got for you this week.

Black Dissent Under Siege in the Deep South

Exactly 60 years ago this month, organizers in Mississippi — including Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Bob Moses, and James W. Wright — founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). Its ambition was twofold: to shine a light on the rot consuming the state’s Democratic Party, which barred Black Americans from participating in its primary elections, and to fuel Black political participation.

While the MFDP unraveled after only a few years, I’ve been thinking about it a lot this week, specifically its legacy of Black dissent. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case out of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals involving DeRay Mckesson, a prominent Black Lives Matter figure. The high court’s refusal to step in struck a major blow to the right to mass protest.

After the 2016 killing of Alton Sterling, Mckesson was sued by a police officer who was seriously injured at a demonstration in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and claimed that Mckesson, who led the rally, ought to be held responsible. By not intervening, the court is letting stand the 5th Circuit’s decision that penalizes an organizer if an attendee at a mass protest does something illegal — and is potentially muzzling the voices of people in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas who might want to spearhead a rally and draw attention to injustice.

It’s also hard not to notice the hypocrisy that the Supreme Court justices seem to be treating the Jan. 6 rioters differently from a Black Lives Matter protester.

You can read my story from earlier this week on the future of Black political power in Mississippi here.

New York v. Donald J. Trump

The first-ever criminal trial of a former president kicked off this week, when defendant Donald Trump entered a Manhattan courtroom on Monday. The trial springs from allegations that he was involved in a hush-money scheme.

For many Black Americans, this is the start of a watershed moment. Trump also faces charges in a number of other cases, including one out of Fulton County, Georgia, that involves allegations of election subversion. While Trump has mischaracterized the cases he’s caught as “racism in reverse” — several of the lead prosecutors are Black — these cases will reveal lots about our country’s criminal justice system and whether accountability truly exists for Trump, who’s upended the lives of countless Black Americans.

“I won’t even introduce myself by my name anymore,” Ruby Freeman, a Black poll worker in Georgia targeted by Trump, said in a 2022 testimony to the Jan. 6 committee. “I’ve lost my sense of security, all because a group of people starting with [Trump] and his ally Rudy Giuliani decided to scapegoat me and my daughter Shaye to push their own lies about how the presidential election was stolen.”

Exhausting political pageantry comes with anything involving Trump, yes. But it’d be rash to tune out of this moment. The stakes are too high.

War on DEI Shakes Up College Campus

“Gutted.” That’s how Duke University senior Drew Greene described his reaction to the recent news that the school is ending its Reginaldo Howard Memorial Scholarship Program, created for the “top applicants of African descent.” The move is a direct result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to strike down affirmative action in higher education. For many, the program was about more than just scholarship — it was also about kinship. “It’s given me not only a community,” Greene said, “but a group of friends, a group of academic peers that I enjoy spending time with.”

Duke’s axing of the program, which comes as the NAACP joins a lawsuit against anti-diversity legislation in Arkansas, reminded me of something Bryan Cook, the director of higher education policy in the Center on Education Data and Policy at the Urban Institute, told me last year. He warned that eviscerating affirmative action would affect more than enrollment numbers.

“Even the environments that exist, particularly on selective campuses, that provide some semblance of cultural comfort for minority students are under attack,” he said. “It’s not just that we could start having less racial and ethnic diversity at schools. For those who are there, the campus experience could start to become very different.”

Clearly, Cook was right.

A Historic Settlement in Maryland

It was a departure from the demoralizing voting rights news that’s everywhere these days. The small Maryland town of Federalsburg settled a voting rights lawsuit this month not only by agreeing to apologize for its history of racism but also by pledging to acknowledge Black contributions to the local community.

At issue was Federalsburg’s voting system, which the lawsuit said bolstered a “white stranglehold on municipal power” by diluting the strength of Black voters — by denying them “an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.” After the system was changed last year, Federalsburg, which is 43% Black, elected its first Black representatives.

Striking, at least to me, about the lawsuit was that it zoomed in on Section 2 of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, which protects against racial vote dilution. This focus illuminated Section 2’s growing importance over the past decade. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court defanged Section 5, which had mandated that states with histories of racial discrimination receive federal approval before changing their voting policies. Without this backstop, individual citizens and civil rights groups have had to increasingly rely on Section 2 to safeguard the ballot box.

This use of the provision is poised for a Supreme Court showdown, where several justices appear eager to gut it. But at least for now, it’s brought a 200-year-old Maryland town closer to achieving fair representation.

“America’s Starting Five”

For more than half a century, the Democratic Party has been Black Americans’ political home. The Republican Party, however, seems determined to change that. The latest effort: a media venture from U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Titled “America’s Starting Five,” the weekly video series also features four other Black Republicans — Reps. Byron Donalds of Florida, Burgess Owens of Utah, John James of Michigan, and Wesley Hunt of Texas — discussing “politics, race, and the 2024 election.” In the first episode, Scott noted, archly, “Here are four non-Black, Black people.” He was making a dig at a comment President Joe Biden made in 2020, when he said that Black Americans who don’t know the difference between him and former President Donald Trump “ain’t really Black.” The series hopes to bring into the GOP the “four out of 10 of us [who] ain’t Black enough for Joe Biden,” as Scott put it.

Will it work? I’m no prognosticator, but I’m skeptical. Many Black voters are frustrated with Biden, as I reported earlier this year, but the overwhelming majority disdain Trump. And it isn’t clear whether Scott, who’s often an object of ridicule to Black voters, can really widen his party’s tent. Or as Todd Shaw, an associate professor of political science and African American studies at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, put it to me last year, “There’s just a lot Scott would have to do in order for the Republican Party to be appealing to a larger segment of the Black community.”

Jaw still on the floor from the positive voting rights news,

Brandon Tensley

Brandon Tensley is Worldacad's national politics reporter.