Saturday, 18 July 2020

Civil Rights Giant John Lewis Passes Away

Congressman John Lewis of Georgia's 5th District has died at the age of 80. He had been battling pancreatic cancer.

The son of sharecroppers from Alabama, Lewis became an icon of the civil rights movement and was the last survivor of the "big six" leaders which included Martin Luther King jr. He helped found the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and became its chairman from 1963-66. He also helped organise the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, speaking at the rally in which Martin Luther King jr gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

In 1965, Lewis led 600 protesters in the Bloody Sunday March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.While walking with his hands in his pockets at the front of the march, he was attacked and beaten by police officers. Lewis received a fractured skull and the shocking televised images sparked a national debate on racial oppression which resulted in President Lyndon B. Johnson planning the Voting Rights Act days later. The bill became law later that year, removing barriers to voting for the black community.

Lewis once famously said: “But we must accept one central truth and responsibility as participants in a democracy: Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.”

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