This Black History Month I’m Grateful for John Lewis
“Registering to vote is an act of commitment to the American
ideal. It is patriotic. The Federal Government must decide whether it wants to
let Southern Negroes register. It must make that choice this summer, or make us
all witnesses to the lynching of democracy.”
John Lewis was a young college student when he got his start
as an activist in the Nashville Student Movement. Lewis was often viewed as the
prodigy of the movement as he was the youngest of the “Big Six” leaders of the
Civil Rights Movement by a full decade.
As a co-founder and an early chair of the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Lewis first became a national figure during the
Freedom Rides of 1961. It was during this endeavor to desegregate public
facilities in the South that Lewis was beaten so badly many feared his death
was imminent. While continuing his leadership of SNCC, Lewis was one of the speakers
at the legendary 1963 March on Washington.
SNCC worked throughout the South to
develop Freedom Schools that trained nonviolent activists. They also organized 1964’s Freedom
Summer efforts at registering potential Black voters. Lewis was also one of the
leaders of the Selma, Alabama march now referred to as “Bloody Sunday” because
of the brutal beating Lewis and many other nonviolent protestors received at
the hands (and clubs) of the Alabama State Police.
As the sixties came to an end, Lewis became deeply involved
in electoral politics. Initially, he became a prominent advisor for Robert F.
Kennedy’s Presidential campaign in 1968. For the last quarter century, Lewis
has served his country as a member of Congress from Georgia. He is widely perceived
as the most important living link to the Civil Rights Movement. Lewis continues
to fight for human rights to this day.
Today I am grateful for John Lewis. You should be too.