John Lewis (1940–2020) was a prominent American civil rights leader, politician, and advocate for social justice. Born on February 21, 1940, in Troy, Alabama, Lewis became an iconic figure in the struggle for racial equality and civil rights during the 1960s. His activism began at a young age, inspired by the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Lewis played a pivotal role in the American civil rights movement, particularly as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He participated in numerous nonviolent protests, sit-ins, and Freedom Rides, enduring violence and arrests in the fight against segregation and racial discrimination.
One of Lewis’ most memorable contributions came during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, where he delivered a passionate speech advocating for equality and justice. His dedication to nonviolent resistance and his commitment to confronting injustice earned him both admiration and respect.
In later years, John Lewis transitioned from activism to politics. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986, representing Georgia‘s 5th congressional district. During his tenure in Congress, he continued his advocacy for civil rights, voting rights, healthcare access, and other social justice issues. Lewis’ remarkable journey from the front lines of the civil rights movement to the halls of Congress left an indelible legacy of courage, resilience, and unwavering dedication to the pursuit of justice and equality for all.
Do you want to know more about John Lewis? Here are 36 interesting facts about John Lewis.
- John Lewis was born on February 21, 1940, in Troy, Alabama, USA.
- He was one of ten children in his family.
- Lewis’ parents were sharecroppers, and he grew up on a farm.
- He was deeply inspired by the activism of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.
- Lewis attended the American Baptist Theological Seminary (now American Baptist College) and Fisk University.
- He was a leader in the Nashville Student Movement and participated in sit-ins to protest segregation.
- Lewis became one of the original 13 Freedom Riders who challenged segregated interstate bus travel in 1961.
- His skull was fractured during the Freedom Rides when he was attacked by a white mob in Montgomery, Alabama.
- Lewis was elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1963.
- He was the youngest speaker at the historic March on Washington in 1963, where he delivered a passionate speech.
- Lewis was instrumental in organizing the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965, advocating for voting rights.
- On “Bloody Sunday” in 1965, Lewis and other marchers were brutally attacked by state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
- He was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1981.
- Lewis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986, representing Georgia’s 5th congressional district.
- He served in Congress for 17 terms, becoming known as the “Conscience of the Congress.”
- Lewis co-authored the 2013 graphic novel “March,” a memoir about his life and the civil rights movement.
- He received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
- Lewis was arrested over 40 times during his civil rights activism.
- He referred to voting as “the most powerful nonviolent tool we have in a democratic society.”
- Lewis was a strong advocate for gun control and pushed for stricter legislation.
- He was an advocate for marriage equality.
- Lewis’ congressional office displayed a photograph of him being beaten by police on Bloody Sunday.
- He was known for his distinctive bow ties.
- Lewis was a supporter of universal healthcare.
- He was a proponent of criminal justice reform and voting rights restoration for former felons.
- Lewis often spoke about the importance of getting into “good trouble” to create positive change.
- He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University in 2012.
- Lewis served as the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th district from 1987 until his death in 2020.
- He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2019.
- Lewis passed away on July 17, 2020, at the age of 80.
- After his death, the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma was renamed the John Lewis Bridge.
- Lewis’ body lay in state at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, a rare honor.
- He wrote an op-ed for The New York Times shortly before his death, encouraging people to continue the fight for justice.
- Lewis was a strong advocate for climate change action and environmental protection.
- He was a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform.
- John Lewis’ legacy lives on as an inspiration for future generations in the fight for civil rights, social justice, and equality.
John Lewis, a towering figure in the annals of civil rights and American history, etched an enduring legacy of resilience, courage, and unwavering commitment to justice. His indomitable spirit, forged on the front lines of the struggle for civil rights, fueled his lifelong pursuit of equality and human dignity. From the heart of the civil rights movement to the halls of Congress, Lewis stood as a beacon of hope and a moral compass for a nation grappling with its past and striving toward a more equitable future. His legacy reminds us that the pursuit of justice requires determination, self-sacrifice, and the willingness to get into “good trouble.” As we reflect on John Lewis’ life, let us honor his memory by carrying forward the torch he lit, and by working tirelessly to dismantle systemic injustice, bridge divides, and create a world where every individual’s rights and dignity are upheld without exception.