Published On: Mon, Feb 23rd, 2015

John Legend, Common use ‘Selma’ platform to compare prisoners to slavery

Sharing the Academy Award for Best Original Song, rapper Common and singer John Legend drew parallels between the events portrayed in Selma and criminals in 2015, referring to prisoners under “correctional control.”

Selma is now because the struggle for justice is now,” Legend said during the acceptance speech. “We know that the voting rights that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised in this country today.” He also said there are “more black men under correctional control today than were in slavery.”

selma-movie-posterThe Oscar was for their song “Glory,” which they also performed at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, bringing audience members including Oprah Winfrey and actor Chris Pine to tears.

“We live in the most incarcerated country in the world,” Legend said. “There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850.”

Common, who also starred in Selma, stressed the importance of using the platform of the Oscars speech to highlight social issues. “To whom much is given, much is required,” he said.

This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now is a symbol of change,” he said. “The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status. The spirt of this bridge connects the kid from the South Side of Chicago, dreaming of a better life, to those in France standing up for freedom of expression.”

Fox News correspondent Jesse Watters responded on Outnumbered saying that “On John Legend, I think he talked about voter ID and discrimination…I just want to fact check there, a lot of the states that passed voter ID laws, black voter participation has actually gone up. So, I don’t even think that’s true.”

PolitiFact Rhode Island found that U.S. Bureau of Criminal Statistics put the number of African-American men under state and federal criminal justice supervision in 2013 at about 1.68 million — 807,076 above the number of African-American men enslaved in 1850.

Read their entire fact-check here.

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