For much of his life, John Lewis has been a servant to the people and a tireless voice of justice for Black America. Today, the world is gathered in mourning after news the Atlanta congressman and civil rights movement icon has passed away.
John Robert Lewis was born February 21, 1940 in Troy, Al. as on of 10 children born to his sharecropper parents. As a teenager, Lewis was enamored by the speeches of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and began his own pathway into the civil rights movement as a student activist in college while attending American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tenn. and later gaining received a bachelor’s degree in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University, also in Nashville.
In the early 1960s, Lewis became known as one of the original Freedom Riders, a 13-strong multi-racial group that rode on buses in an integrated fashion as an affront to the divisive practice od segregation. The group rode from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans under the guidance of James Farmer and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
Lewis and other Freedom Riders moved about in nonviolent fashion, facing vicious mobs of angry whites at almost every turn. When he was 21, Lewis was beaten by a group in Rock Hill, S.C. for entering a whites-only waiting room at a bus stop, but recovered and rejoined the efforts headed of spending a little over a month in Mississippi in connection to the Freedom Riders protest. Lewis and other riders suffered physical violence at every turn but they refused to back down.
As a founding member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Lewis was asked to head the group in 1963, taking SNCC into a roaring set of actions including Freedom Schools, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and assisting with the Selma, Ala. voting rights actions that took place there. Lewis was part of the marchers who were injured in the so-called “Bloody Sunday” even where peaceful protestors were essentially beaten down by police and white bystanders who defied the march. The scars Lewis suffered in that horrific event were still visible well into his adulthood, and the moment shifted and invigorated the movement.
In 1977, Lewis worked in the administration of President Jimmy Carter as the associate director of ACTION, this after an unsuccessful bid at a seat in Congress. In 1981, Lewis was elected as a member of the Atlanta City Council, serving there ahead of making his renewed bid for a congressman seat. Lewis was sworn into Congress in 1987 and has remained there serving Georgia’s 5th District until his passing. Lewis was one of the last remaining icons of the movement and was forever connected to that fight even as a politician who served on behalf of all Americans.
Across Twitter, tributes for the late, great Rep. John Lewis have been high in volume as it should be. His bravery, determination, and sacrifice created pathways of freedom for those who suffered greatly under the weight of oppression. We’ll all hope to make some good trouble, necessary trouble in your honor, sir.
Rest Powerfully in peace to John Lewis.
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