Request Line: (870) 277-1080 [email protected]
Text Your Gift to KLEK1 to 44-321 LEARN MORE

Your Community Radio Station is possible thanks to this supporter!  Become an underwriter.

R.I.P. John Lewis, 80, U.S Representative and Civil Rights Movement Icon
John Lewis (photo by Rick Diamond / Getty Images)

Rep. John Lewis, an iconic pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement and Freedom Rider who literally shed his blood in the fight for Black voting rights and went on to become a 17-term Democratic member of Congress, died yesterday from pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old.

One of the last surviving leaders of the 1960s Civil Rights era and members of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s inner circle, (the Rev. C.T. Vivian passed yesterday as well), Lewis was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in December.

Regardless of his health issues, Lewis took to the streets again in early June to join protests for racial justice near the White House that were in response to the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks, among others.

Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama and attended segregated schools before earning his college degree at Fisk University in Nashville.

While a student there, Lewis organized his first sit-in demonstration at a lunch counter and was soon arrested for what he started to call “good trouble, necessary trouble.”

To quote from the Los Angeles Times:

By 1961, Lewis was volunteering for the Freedom Rides, challenging segregation by sitting among white people on buses in Southern cities, not in the rear sections designated for “colored” people.

On May 9, 1961, as his bus stopped at a Greyhound station in Rock Hill, S.C., he and his companions were beaten by Elwin Wilson, a white man Lewis didn’t officially meet until nearly 50 years later. Wilson visited Lewis’ congressional office in 2009 to formally apologize.

“It demonstrated the power of nonviolence, the power of love, the power of the way of peace, to be reconciled,” Lewis said.

By the time he was just 23, Lewis was known as one of the “Big Six” national student leaders in the civil rights movement. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which organized student activism including sit-ins, voter registration drives and the Mississippi Freedom Summer, a 1964 project to register Black voters in the state. The role at SNCC brought him to Atlanta, a city that he would call home for the rest of his life.

John Lewis and fellow Freedom Rider, James Zwerg, after they were attacked by segregationists in Montgomery, AL., in May 1961. (Credit: Bettmann/Corbis)

As a 25-year-old man, Lewis helped to plan the peaceful 1965 protest march from Selma to Montgomery that was one of the seminal moments of the civil rights movement.

The clash between protesters and the Alabama state troopers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, called “Bloody Sunday,” spurred protests in 80 American cities and Congress’ passage of the Voting Rights Act, which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law five months later.

The protesters “literally, in my estimation, wrote the Voting Rights Act with our blood and with our feet on the streets of Selma, Alabama,” Lewis said in a 1985 interview for the documentary “Eyes on the Prize.”

It wasn’t the first nor the last time Lewis would be beaten. He often said he was arrested or jailed 40 times throughout the 1960s.

As the civil rights movement expanded to other minority groups, Lewis early on joined the battle to extend the Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Legislation called the Equality Act faced skepticism from some civil rights groups concerned about the unintended consequences of reopening the 1965 landmark law, fearful that they could lose some of its federal protections in the process.

“Sometimes people ask me, ‘Why do you take such a strong stand for gay rights, for marriage equality?’” Lewis said at a 2014 Human Rights Campaign event. “My simple answer is I fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up for discrimination today based on sexual orientation.”

Lewis’ political career began in 1981, when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. Five years later, he was elected to Congress, to a seat he has held since then.

While serving in the House of Representatives, Lewis became a leader and inspirational figure among his fellow Democrats. On major legislation, he often gave a closing speech that roused his party faithful. In the wake of the shooting massacre at the gay nightclub the Pulse, in Orlando, Fla., in 2016, he led a “sit in” on the House floor to protest Republicans’ refusal to act on gun-safety legislation.

John Lewis official portrait (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

During his first decade and a half in Congress, Lewis consistently introduced a bill to create a national African American history museum. His proposed legislation was repeatedly blocked by Sen. Jesse Helms, a segregationist and Republican from North Carolina.

Helms retired in 2003 and that year Lewis finally was able to get his bill passed and President George W. Bush signed it into law. The National Museum of African American History and Culture opened on the National Mall in 2016.

In 2011, President Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Lewis’s survivors include several siblings and his son, John-Miles Lewis.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-07-17/rep-john-lewis-civil-rights-icon-dies

Original article source: https://goodblacknews.org/2020/07/18/r-i-p-john-lewis-80-u-s-representative-and-civil-rights-movement-icon/ | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council

0 0 vote
Article Rating

Related Articles

Artist Anthony Olubunmi Akinbola’s “Magic City” Installation at John Michael Kohler Arts Center Opens Online Feb. 19

[Image: Anthony Olubunmi Akinbola: Magic City installation (detail) at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, 2021.] A Cadillac Escalade that morphs into a pulsating sound sculpture. Murray’s Pomade cans as minimalist totems. Read more

Harriet Tubman Inducted into Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame; Back on Track to Grace the $20 Bill

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson) On Veteran’s Day in 2018, I posted the following to the Good Black News Facebook Page with the photo above: This is Harriet Tubman in Read more

Black Lives Matter Movement Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, Wins Sweden’s Human Rights Prize for 2020

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson) Petter Eide, a member of Norway’s parliament, nominated Black Lives Matter for a Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of the movement’s continuous work towards manifesting Read more

Apple Launches New Racial Equity and Justice Initiative Projects Nationwide

[Photo courtesy apple.com: Jared Bailey, a senior at Morehouse College, has integrated Apple’s coding and creativity curricula into his public health and community service work as part of the school’s Read more

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Your Community Radio Station is possible thanks to this supporter!  Become an underwriter.

Pin It on Pinterest