Some Americans may have never heard of Congressman Lewis. Those who do most likely associate him with his character in the movie Selma, but many do not know that he is an unsung hero in the battle for civil rights, racial equality, and other forms of social equality.
John Robert Lewis was born on February 21, 1940 in Troy, Alabama. Born to two sharecroppers, he attended Pike County Training High School and Fisk University. Congressman Lewis became a leader in the Nashville Sit-ins, while also being invited to attend nonviolence workshops, where he became dedicated to learning about nonviolence. His nonviolent approach to civil rights caused him to be arrested several times. Eventually, he participated in Freedom Rides that were supported by the Congress of Racial Equality, while being one of the youngest of the "Big Six" civil rights leaders in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1963 to 1966. He was an icon during the hardest times of the civil rights movement.
Congressman Lewis has had many accomplishments throughout his life. In 1981, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council, where he faced endless criticism from a lot of people who were afraid to challenge the status quo. He ran to fill the vacant seat of Georgia's 5th congressional spot after President Jimmy Carter appointed Andrew Young to be the ambassador to the United Nations. Lewis would lose this election. In 1986 he was elected to the House of Representatives, and since, then has been reelected fourteen times- and has run unopposed for eight years! To this very moment, he has been labeled as a "Hard-Core Liberal", despite his southern upbringing. He has opposed the Gulf War and the consideration of the invasion of Haiti. Recently, Congressman Lewis called out the Tea Party for using racial epithets against other black members of Congress. In 2003 he spoke to a large group of people in Oregon during an anti-war protests of the Iraq war. Additionally , in 2006 and 2009 he was arrested outside the Sudan embassy in protests to the Genocide in Darfur. Although he has accomplished many, his mission and journey still continues.
John Lewis is one of the most inspiring men in American history. His efforts have lasted longer than many people could imagine. His influence in the fight for equality can be felt by every American. His nonviolent ways from philosophical studies has stretched far beyond our shores. Congressman Lewis is an iconic role model in the world of politics and the fight for social equality. He is not a one sided politician who only fights for one cause- he has been noted as one of the few politicians to open up and speak on gay rights being as important as a racial issues. His a hero to many, and a true American Icon.
Alexander Walker-Griffin, Head Messenger and Black History Month Content Curator