John Lewis

American politician and civil rights leader (1940-2020)

John Lewis (February 21, 1940 – July 17, 2020) was an American politician and civil rights leader. He was the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district from 1987, representing much of the city of Atlanta. Lewis, as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was one of the "Big Six" leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington. He played many key roles in the Civil Rights Movement and its actions to end legalized racial segregation in the United States, including organizing the March 7, 1965 Selma march.

I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive.
Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.

QuotesEdit

  • Next time we march we may have to keep going when we get to Montgomery. We may have to on to Washington.
    • Told to New York Times on March 7, 1965 by Lewis, chairman of the Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee and organizer of the Selma to Montgomery march after police stopped the demonstrators with violence.
    • As noted on On This Day, BBC. (url accessed on October 22, 2008)
  • I thought I was going to die a few times. On the Freedom Ride in the year 1961, when I was beaten at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery, I thought I was going to die. On March 7th, 1965, when I was hit in the head with a night stick by a State Trooper at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I thought I was going to die. I thought I saw death, but nothing can make me question the philosophy of nonviolence.
  • Our children and their children will ask us what did you do? What did you say? For some this vote may be hard. But we have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.
  • I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.

2020Edit

  • Our nation is founded on the principle that we do not have kings. We have presidents. And the Constitution is our compass. When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something. To do something. Our children and their children will ask us, ‘What did you do? What did you say?' For some, he concluded, this vote may be hard. But we have a mission and a mandate to be on the right side of history.
  • We were beaten, we were tear-gassed. I thought I was going to die on this bridge. But somehow and some way, God almighty helped me here. We cannot give up now. We cannot give in. We must keep the faith, keep our eyes on the prize.
  • 55 years ago today, we were beaten, tear gassed, and trampled by horses. I thought I saw death. I thought I was going to die. I don't know how I made it back, but I know we cannot rest. We cannot become weary. We must keep pushing and pulling and find a way to get in the way.
  • I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive.
  • I appeal to all of you to get into this great revolution that is sweeping this nation. Get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village and hamlet of this nation until true freedom comes, until the revolution of 1776 is complete. — At the 1963 March on Washington

AboutEdit

  • He’s right... Rep. Lewis reminds us not just of our duty to continue to fight for a better country — his story reminds us of the transformational change we can achieve when we do. As a young Black civil rights leader, Lewis suffered a head injury on Bloody Sunday fighting for the rights of people like me to vote in our elections.
  • It is not enough to say he was a revered civil rights icon. He was a man of impeccable integrity who dedicated his life to fighting against racism, discrimination & injustice. John was a true leader who inspired us all to have the courage to fight.
  • Congressman John Lewis, before his passing, wrote: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act.’’ And what he meant was that America’s democracy is not guaranteed. It is only as strong as our willingness to fight for it, to guard it and never take it for granted. And protecting our democracy takes struggle. It takes sacrifice. There is joy in it and there is progress. Because “We The People” have the power to build a better future. And when our very democracy was on the ballot in this election, with the very soul of America at stake, and the world watching, you ushered in a new day for America.
    • Kamala Harris, "To the Women," (7 November 2020), as quoted in Vital Speeches of the Day, 87(1), pp. 4.

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