Fair Treatment Choice Reform Degradation Human trafficking Boycott Health Care Change Soil Erosion Peace Labor Identity Economic systems Government Accountability Segregation Lawsuit Advocacy Genocide Citizenship Justice Peaceful Assembly Non-violent Activism Civil rights Bonded Labor Untouchables Religious Freedom Dialogue Legal Protection Values Exploitation Modern Slavery Solidarity Racial profiling Sex slavery Equal protection Decision making Political systems Childhood rights Discrimination Global citizenship Environment Caste System Needs and wants Standard of living freedom from persecution Agribusiness Indigenous Accord Children's Rights Freedom of Expression Nuclear Non-Proliferation Social activism China Freedom from Violence Police Brutality Property Potable Water Individual Integrity Political Participation Corporation Advocate
A Legacy of Leadership in Non-Violent Activism and Community Organizing for Social Change
Non-violence Political Participation Freedom of Expression Equality Justice Change Social Movements Compromise
One of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced, Congressman John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he described as “The Beloved Community” in America.
The “conscience of the U.S. Congress” grew up as the son of sharecroppers, where he was inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a protest campaign against racial segregation on public transit that started in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, and by the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement; a mass protest movement against racial segregation and discrimination in the U.S. that peaked between 1955 and 1965.
As a student at American Baptist College, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations, was one of the Freedom Riders, who were civil rights activists that rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States, and was named Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form.
By 1963, he was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. At the age of twenty-three, he was an architect of, and a keynote speaker at, the historic March on Washington in August 1963. Attended by some 250,000 people, it was the largest demonstration ever seen in the nation’s capital. The event is remembered for Lewis’ keynote address and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
In 1964, he coordinated voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer, a campaign in June 1964 that attempted to register as many African-American voters as possible. The following year, Lewis helped lead over 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, with intentions to march to Montgomery to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday” and hastened the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Despite more than forty arrests, physical attacks, and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. After leaving SNCC in 1966, he continued his commitment to the Civil Rights Movement as Associate Director of the Field Foundation and his participation in the Southern Regional Council’s voter registration programs. Lewis went on to become the Director of the Voter Education Project (VEP). Under his leadership, the VEP transformed the nation’s political climate by adding nearly four million minorities to the voter rolls.
He was elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since then.
John Lewis holds a B.A. in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University, and he is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been awarded over fifty honorary degrees and is the recipient of numerous awards from eminent national and international institutions, including the only John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement ever granted.