1940 February 21

Civil Rights Leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis is Born in Troy, Alabama


John Lewis was a pioneer in the Civil Rights Sit-in Movement that began on February 1, 1960, and he became chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1963.

As part of the 1961 Freedom Ride (May 4, 1961), Lewis was beaten by a racist mob in Montgomery, Alabama, on May 20,1961. On March 3, 2013, in an amazing act of atonement, the current police chief of Montgomery, Kevin Murphy, apologized to Lewis for the failure of the the Montgomery police to protect the freedom riders in 1961. Murphy took off his badge and gave it to Lewis as a symbol of his apology.

Lewis spoke at the historic civil rights March on Washington on August 28, 1963, but march leaders censored his speech, forcing him to delete his criticisms of the Kennedy administration for failing to fully support civil rights,

On March 7, 1965, “Bloody Sunday,” Lewis was savagely beaten by police in Selma, Alabama, when he tried to lead a march to demand voting rights. The beating outraged public opinion across the U.S. and around the world, and led to the enactment of the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act, which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law on August 6, 1965.

Lewis was elected to serve Georgia’s 5th congressional district in 1986. He is today a senior and respected member of the House of Representatives. Lewis spoke at the famous August 28, 1963, March on Washington, but was forced to delete remarks that were harshly critical of the Kennedy administration. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the March in 2013, he was the only living person who had spoken from the podium in 1963.

Read Lewis’ Autobiography: John Lewis (with Michael D’Orso), Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (1998)

Visit Rep. Lewis’ Congressional Home Page: http://johnlewis.house.gov/

Watch newsreel footage of “Bloody Sunday”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM-tfj6lp6w

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