We have lost a great champion of justice and equality in our nation and world. John Lewis, son of Alabama sharecroppers, Lion of the Civil Rights Movement, and U.S. Representative from Georgia died at the age of 80 on Friday, July 17, 2020. While another massive part of the heart and soul of this nation’s voice for unity no longer breathes, his truth is marching on!
When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something. (John Lewis)
A seminary graduate with a degree in Religion and Philosophy, Lewis was keenly aware of the vast disparity between whites and blacks in the South and across the nation. He was active in and committed to the early Civil Rights Movement, organizing non-violent sit-ins and boycotts, and desegregating lunch counters. He was arrested many times, even spending forty days and forty nights in the Mississippi State Prison at Parchman, just a stone’s throw away from Fannie Lou Hamer’s home. People tried to still his voice, but his truth is marching on!
Following the teaching of Gandhi and Thoreau, Dr. King, it set me on a path. And I never looked back. (John Lewis)
In 1963 John Lewis helped organize the March on Washington where the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his legendary I Have a Dream speech. Lewis, at the age of 23, also spoke―the youngest orator to address the massive crowd that day. He was the last surviving speaker from that seminal event. But his voice has not been stilled. His truth is marching on!
Before we went on any protest, whether it was sit-ins or the freedom rides or any march, we prepared ourselves, and we were disciplined. We were committed to the way of peace – the way of non-violence – the way of love – the way of life as the way of living. (John Lewis)
As one of the original Freedom Riders, John Lewis suffered beatings with chains, lead pipes, and stones, fearing for his life. During his time as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Lewis received what is likely his most well-known beating in Selma, Alabama at the hands of local police and mounted Alabama State Troopers. His skull was fractured as he helped lead approximately 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. They tried to still his voice on that Bloody Sunday, but his truth is marching on!
Some of us gave a little blood for the right to participate in the democratic process. (John Lewis)
Lewis continued his nonviolent mission for justice and equality even after the Civil Rights Movement, helping over four million minority voters to register. He served in the Carter administration, leading various programs focusing on racial and social justice. In 1986 Lewis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served there until his death. He was a formidable foe of injustice and a valiant voice for equality. His legacy of passionately waging peace will endure. His truth is marching on!
We are one people with one family. We all live in the same house…we must find a way to say to people that we must lay down the burden of hate. For hate is too heavy a burden to bear. (John Lewis)
As we continue to lose the physical presence of the pioneers of the past, as we are now as a nation embroiled in a resurgence of the fight for right, as we mourn the passing of this great human being, let us remember his spirit and his mission: to bring peace, unity, equality, and hope through fervent, nonviolent action, never shrinking in the face of opposition, always raising our voices against oppression and for the rights and dignity of all. John Lewis’ voice has not been silenced! His truth is marching on!
I want to see young people in America feel the spirit of the 1960s and find a way to get in the way. To find a way to get in trouble. Good trouble, necessary trouble. (John Lewis)
(His Truth Is Marching On, taken from the Battlehymn of the Republic, is also the title of John Meacham’s best selling biography of John Lewis.)