John Lewis served as a representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1987 until the year 2020, during which time he was widely regarded as one of the most important and influential figures of the American Civil Rights movement.
Lewis passed away in 2020. Lewis is a native of segregated Alabama, where he spent his childhood and gained first-hand knowledge and experience of its effects. In his younger years, he rose through the ranks to become one of the “big six” leaders of the coalition that organised the historic March on Washington in 1963.
Between the years 1963 and 1966, he presided over the organisation known as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as its chairman. In the event that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” one of the leaders of three marches from Selma to Montgomery that took place across the Edmund Pettus Bridge was John Lewis.
Lewis was one of the people who was savagely attacked by the authorities. After being involved in politics, he became a member of the Democratic Party.
During the time that he served in the United States Congress, he upheld his ardently liberal values with an almost religious zeal and routinely opposed pieces of legislation that he saw to be in violation of those ideals, including some that were offered by members of his own political party.
He voted for Barack Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 elections for the presidency of the United States of America, and he supported Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Childhood & Early Life
John Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama, in the United States of America on February 21, 1940. Willie Mae, whose maiden name was Carter, and Eddie Lewis, both worked the land as sharecroppers. He was the second oldest of two siblings and one of seven younger siblings.
When he was a kid, he didn’t spend much time around white people because they weren’t there very often. His parents had counselled him not to openly go against the pervasive disparities that existed in the Jim Crow South, and he had been forced to attend segregated schools throughout his education.
The non-violent resistance of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. served as a significant source of motivation for him when he was a teenager. He reached out to both of them in an effort to desegregate what was then known as Troy State College but is now known as Troy University.
In the end, his parents were successful in persuading him to enrol at the American Baptist Theological Seminary located in Nashville, Tennessee. It was there that he received his ordination as a pastor. In subsequent years, he received his bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University, where he had previously studied.
John Lewis When He Died?
On December 31, 2012, exactly 45 years after their first meeting, Lillian Miles passed away. Lewis revealed to the media that he has stage IV pancreatic cancer in December 2019. On July 17, 2020, he passed away in Atlanta. His age at the time was 80.
John Lewis, one of the most well-known supporters of social justice, equality, and voting rights, has made a significant impact on US history as well as probably on the history of the entire world.
His struggles, along with those of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and others, helped to prepare the path for Obama to become president. He was politically engaged up until a month before his passing and made his last public appearance in June 2020 at the Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington.
Civil Rights Activism
While John Lewis was living in Nashville, he took his initial steps towards becoming active in the civil rights movement. He began participating in peaceful sit-in protests at lunch counters and other public locations that were segregated at the time.
His first arrest came in 1961, at the beginning of the Freedom Rides movement, when he and 12 other people rode interstate buses to challenge a law that said it was illegal for black and white riders to occupy seats next to each other. This law prevented black and white riders from sitting next to each other.
In 1963, he was elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a post he held for the subsequent three years before stepping down in 1966, when the organisation began to adopt more radical points of view.
In addition, he was one of the “big six” leaders who participated in the March on Washington in 1963. The other members of this group were Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and John Lewis. He was a significant contributor to this event.
On March 7, 1965, John Lewis took part in a pivotal demonstration that would go on to be regarded as one of the most formative moments of the Civil Rights Movement.
Together with another activist named Hosea Williams, he planned and led a nonviolent march from Selma to Montgomery in an effort to gain voting rights. While attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River, the group of approximately 600 protesters came into contact with officials from the state government.
These officials included sheriff’s deputies, state troopers, and deputised “possemen.” They were attacked with tear gas, trampled by horses, and beaten with bullwhips and billy clubs. Additionally, tear gas was thrown at them.
This was carried out in accordance with the explicit instructions of George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama. Lewis, in addition to at least fifty other demonstrators, had serious injuries and needed to be treated in a hospital. He suffered a skull fracture, which left him with a scar that he carried with him for the rest of his life.
As a result of the broadcast of Bloody Sunday, which was seen in millions of homes across the United States, there was an uptick in the number of demonstrations around the country, and people were calling for the federal government to take quick action.
The Voting Rights Acts became official pieces of legislation with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signature on August 6, 1965.
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John Lewis moved to New York in 1966 in order to fill the position of associate director at the Field Foundation. From 1970 to 1977, he then directed the Voter Education Project (VEP).
In 1977, he made his political debut by running an unsuccessful campaign against Atlanta City Councilman Wyche Fowler for the Democratic nomination for Georgia’s 5th congressional district. Later, under the Jimmy Carter administration.
He was promoted to associate director of ACTION, where he was in charge of the VISTA programme, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, and the Foster Grandparent Program. He gained an at-large seat on the Atlanta City Council in 1981 after leaving that position, where he served until 1986.
In 1986, he made his first successful run for the 5th Congressional District of Georgia. Prior to defeating Republican contender Portia Scott in the general election, he defeated Julian Bond, a key player in the civil rights movement, in the Democratic primary.
Between 1988 and 2018, John Lewis went on to win the seat 16 more times. Between 1991 to 2003, he served as the Democratic Party’s Chief Deputy Whip. From 2003 on, he served as Senior Chief Deputy Whip.
Lewis was renowned for frequently mentioning his role in the Civil Rights movement during his political career. He dissented from the Bill Clinton administration’s NAFTA and welfare reform, the 2000 U.S. trade pact with China, and the Gulf War in 1991. He was an outspoken advocate for homosexual rights and universal health care.
He first endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, but switched to Obama later. Obama referred to it as a “down payment” after his victory and said that there were still too many marginalised people for it to be the realisation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.
John Lewis, who skipped Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration, has since become one of the president’s most vociferous detractors.
Personal Life & Family
At her New Year’s Eve celebration in 1967, John Lewis’ future wife, Lillian Miles, was introduced to them by their friend and fellow activist, Xernona Clayton. The pair moved to a small house in southwest Atlanta where they lived their entire lives before getting married less than a year later at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
They adopted John-Miles Lewis, their lone child, when he was just two months old in 1976. Their son’s godmother was Clayton, who remained one of the couple’s closest friends.