The Center for Black Equity joins with Americans and people of good will from around the world to mourn the passing of American Civil Rights icon, Representative John Lewis of Atlanta.
The seventeen-term member of Congress stood for civil rights and all human rights during a career that has spanned sixty years. He was the moral voice of reason and compassion through his long and storied career. While, Rep. Lewis had many experiences that shaped his life and demonstrated his passion in achieving civil rights, two were exceeding important — leading the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and organizing Bloody Selma.
Rep. Lewis was head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a US civil-rights student organization active in the 1960s, when he spoke at the March on Washington on August 1963. He was the youngest speaker at 23 years old. His support of voting rights for African Americans led him into politics first as a member of the Atlanta City Council, and defeating his friend, Julian Bond to become a member of Congress representing Georgia’s 5th District.
In March 1965, Lewis was one of the organizers of what is known as Bloody Selma when a group of about 525 African American demonstrators gathered at Browns Chapel to demand the right to vote. They walked six blocks to Broad Street, then across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they were met by more than 50 state troopers and a few dozen posse men on horseback. When the demonstrators refused to turn back, they were brutally beaten. This event was televised and witnessed by millions of people. Bloody Selma is considered one of the pivotal events which caused public opinion to shift in support of civil rights for African Americans.
A strong ally for LGBTQ+ rights, Rep. Lewis was presented with DC Black Pride’s 2018 Eleanor Holmes Norton Award. It is ironic that Rep. Lewis passed away during the greatest reflection on race in America since the Civil Right era of the 1960’s.
The greatest tribute we can pay to John Lewis is to heed his example of moral righteousness in the face of racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and discrimination, and work for human rights for everyone everywhere.