The last living civil rights leader is now a congressman. Did you know?
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). He’s been in the U.S. Congress since 1987, and he doesn’t exactly keep a low profile. You might not know his heroic history. John Lewis is the last living member of a group of civil rights leaders called the ‘Big Six’ because of their leadership roles in influential civil rights organizations. Martin Luther King’s official capacity was Chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) which placed him in the ‘Big Six’ as well.
John Lewis was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the Civil Rights Movement. Born in Troy, Alabama in 1940, John Lewis knew racism by the destruction it caused.
In his early twenties, John Lewis became one of the original 13 Freedom Riders— seven whites and six blacks who determined to ride a bus from Washington DC to New Orleans. He went on several ‘Freedom Rides’ during the sixties, facing violence. he was beaten over and over again. He was left unconscious in an Alabama Greyhound bus station when he was only twenty-one years old.
On March 7, 1965, Lewis and others marched in Selma, Alabama on what came to be known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. Alabama State Troopers fractured his skull with night sticks. He still bears those scars.
John Lewis is the last living person to speak at the March on Washington which is famous for Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.
John Lewis has served Georgia’s fifth congressional district since 1987. He has been re-elected thirteen times.
Why he should be remembered: I hesitate to say he should be remembered because he’s still alive. His past service to our country should be recognized because he was born into a state that didn’t want him. He fought oppression and racism; he suffered life-long wounds for freedom, but he never gave up on the idea of America. Due to that, he is now an integral member of the United States government.
Read more about John Lewis at his Wikipedia page.
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Photo— Flickr/ Pablo Manriquez