“The movement created what I like to call a nonviolent revolution …. It was love at its best. That you beat me, you arrest me, you take me to jail, you almost kill me, but in spite of that, I’m gonna still love you.”John Lewis
John Lewis was a theology student in Nashville when he began attending workshops on nonviolent protest. The teaching resonated with him. “At a very early stage of the movement, I accepted the teaching of Jesus, the way of love, the way of nonviolence, the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Lewis threw himself into activism and started making what he called “good trouble.” He joined sit-ins and became one of the original Freedom Riders desegregating transportation in the South.
In 1965, Lewis was part of a protest march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery. On the first day of the march, a line of state troopers met the group and ordered them to stop. The marchers knelt instead, and troopers charged forward firing tear gas and beating the marchers with clubs. Lewis’s skull was fractured on that day, which became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
The event placed pressure on President Johnson, who introduced the Voting Rights Act, a major victory in the movement.
At the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, Lewis introduced President Obama: “If someone had told me when we were crossing this bridge that one day I would be back here introducing the first African American president, I would’ve said, “You’re crazy, you’re out of your mind!”
Lewis has been a member of Congress as a representative from Georgia since 1987, and continues to make “good trouble.”
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