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John Lewis

Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement

Simon & Schuster

1999 Nonfiction

John Lewis
John Lewis was one of ten children born to sharecroppers in Pike County, Alabama. He graduated from high school and entered the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1957. After graduating in 1961, he enrolled at Fisk University, where he earned a B.A. degree in 1967.

While a seminary student, Lewis participated in nonviolence workshops taught by civil rights activist James Lawson. Lawson was a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), an organization committed to pacifism, and he made Lewis a field secretary. Working with Septima Clark, director of an interracial adult-education center called the Highlander Folk School, Lewis became a leader in the Nashville student movement. He participated in sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, became a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960, and helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964.

During his tenure as national chairman of SNCC, Lewis delivered a powerful speech at the 1963 March on Washington, criticizing the federal government for its failure to protect the rights of African Americans. Two years later, Lewis marched with civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in an effort to secure voting rights for African Americans. During the march, a confrontation with police occurred, and Lewis was one of many marchers beaten in what became known as Bloody Sunday.

Lewis's commitment to nonviolence strained his relationship with SNCC when the organization grew more militant under the leadership of Stokely Carmichael. Lewis resigned from SNCC in 1966 to become director of the Voter Education Project (VEP) based in Atlanta, Georgia. Under Lewis's leadership, the organization led voter registration drives and helped elect black politicians throughout the South. In 1976 President Jimmy Carter appointed Lewis to the staff of ACTION, a government agency responsible for coordinating volunteer activities.

After Carter lost his reelection campaign in 1980, Lewis returned to Atlanta and won a seat on the Atlanta City Council. He served until 1986, when he defeated his friend and fellow civil rights activist Julian Bond in the Democratic Party primary for Georgia's Fifth Congressional District seat. Later that year, Lewis defeated his Republican Party opponent to win the position. In Congress, Lewis has served on the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, and the House Ways and Means Committee.

Contributed By: Alonford James Robinson, Jr.

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Blog Posts about John Lewis

Congressman John Lewis Honored With Louis Stokes Community Award In Cleveland

U.S. Congress member John Lewis is short and bald and unfailingly humble. Before he could say a word during a quick September stop in Cleveland to accept the Louis Stokes Community Vision Award, a breakfast crowd of more than 500 gave the 77-year-old a thunderous standing ovation. Overhead in the Renaissance Hotel’s Grand Ballroom, the film trailer for “Selma” had spun out a brief, heart-clenching re-enactment of Bloody Sunday in 1965, when law enforcement officials beat Lewis unconscious on Alabama’s Edmund Pettis Bridge. The... Read More →

Let These Books -- From Poetry To The Political -- Kick Off Your 2017 Reading List

How does one structure a year in reading?The New York Times published the answers of 47 writers and artists who reflected on the books they chose over the past year. Their responses create a fascinating skein of reading and thinking, and include essays from four Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards recipients. The entire conversation, which weaves from basketball hall-of-famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to filmmaker Ava DuVernay to former House speaker Newt Gingrich to author Maxine Hong Kingston, is enlivening, a hopeful way to face into a new year.Praise for... Read More →

"This Is Unreal": Rep. John Lewis' Acceptance Speech At 2016 National Book Awards

A visibly emotional John Lewis took to the podium at the 2016 National Book Awards to accept this year's prize for MARCH: Book Three, the last installation of the graphic novel series on the civil rights movement. Flanked by collaborators Andrew Aydin, his co-writer, and illustrator Nate Powell, Lewis shared the significance of the moment with the crowd. His brief acceptance speech, which brought tears to both Aydin and Powell, is worth a listen. Read More →

REVIEW: John Lewis Continues His "March," Offers Handbook For Nonviolent Demonstrations

The second installment in March, Rep. John Lewis' acclaimed graphic memoir trilogy on the civil rights movement, picks up where the first volume left off, but this book is more handbook than history lesson. "I see some of the same manners, some of the same thinking, on the part of young people today that I witnessed as a student," the Georgia Congressman, 74, told the New York Times. "The only thing that is so different is that I don't think many of the young people have a deep understanding of the way of nonviolent direct action." March:... Read More →

Rep. John Lewis Laments The Police Killings of Blacks: "I Fear For The Future of This Country"

The veteran Civil Rights leader, survivor of a concussion and beating from Alabama State Troopers on Bloody Sunday, asks in a new essay: “If Bloody Sunday took place in Ferguson today, would Americans be shocked enough to do anything about it?” Lewis, winner of an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for his memoir “Walking With the Wind,” sees the recent police killings of unarmed black people as representing “a glimpse of a different America most Americans have found it inconvenient to confront.” Writing in the Atlantic, Lewis' words are... Read More →

Congressman John Lewis Urges Cleveland State Graduates To "Be Good Citizens Of The World"

William Rieter | Cleveland State University On the day Nelson Mandela’s body was lowered into the ground, Congressman John Lewis raised his voice half a world away to exhort the December graduates of Cleveland State University to begin lives of activism and “to get into good trouble.” Lewis, 73, told the almost 1,000 graduates that he had been “very moved” in Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of the U.S. delegation to the Mandela memorial service. “Don’t give up; don’t give in; go forth and be good citizens, not just of... Read More →

News & Notes: Best Opinions On Supreme Court's Voting Rights Act Decision

It has been a busy week for the Supreme Court, with rulings being handed down on everything from voting rights, marriage equality and affirmative action. The conservative members of the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which added protections for voters in areas that historically have faced voter discrimination.  We rounded up some of the best essays and opinions on the Supreme Court's decision. View them below:  Steven Hill, The Atlantic, "So The Voting Rights Act Is Gutted—What Can Protect Minority... Read More →

Congressman John Lewis Publishes Graphic Novel Of Civil Rights Movement

“Some of you may be asking: ‘Hey, John Lewis, why are you trying to write a comic book?’” said the legendary civil rights leader, smiling at the incongruity of this development for an audience at Book Expo America, the annual publishing trade show in Manhattan. John Lewis was 17 when he met Rosa Parks; 18 when he joined forces with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Five years later, he was one of the “big six,” an architect of the historic Civil Rights March on Washington in August 1963.  Standing at the Lincoln memorial,... Read More →

VIDEO: Henry Louis Gates Jr. Sheds Light In "Finding Your Roots"

It's so often repeated that it has lost most of its meaning, but the old saying is true: "You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been." Anisfield-Wolf jury chair Skip Gates' latest PBS show, "Finding Your Roots" takes it one step further by connecting the past and the future. In the video above, he assists Newark mayor Cory Booker and Sen. John Lewis (1999 nonfiction winner) in exploring their past. Check out the video and let us know - what questions do you have about your past? What would you hope researchers could... Read More →
  • John Lewis

    John Lewis

    Born: 1940

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