Like thousands and thousands, he’d watched the primary try by marchers to cross the bridge in Selma on tv, as they demanded voting rights for blacks. And he noticed with horror the violent response by state troopers. Fiorenza stated it sickened him, “But additionally it stirred up in our hearts a want that we have got to do what we are able to to be part of this. This motion to save lots of the soul of America.”
Congressman John Lewis was in his early 20’s on March 7, 1965, serving to to prepare the march that got here to be often called Bloody Sunday. And he was amongst these overwhelmed by state troopers, struggling a fractured cranium.
“I assumed I noticed dying,” he stated. “I assumed I used to be going to die on that bridge, however one way or the other I am nonetheless right here, I lived to finish the march from Selma to Montgomery, all 54 miles.” That march came about two weeks later, underneath the watchful eyes of the federal authorities and the nation.
Like many younger protestors, Lewis stated he discovered non-violence from leaders like King. “We had what you name our do’s and dont’s — sit up, do not speak again, do not lash out, obey your chief.”
He would use these classes as he took half in just about each main occasion within the civil rights motion from the scholar sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, to freedom rides on buses all through the south, to the marches in Selma. And he stated protestors like him knew the hazards, particularly after seeing some die preventing for his or her rights.
He remembers that, “We signed letters, statements, like wills. We did not know whether or not we might return or not. We have been overwhelmed, we have been left bloody, however I used to be by no means ever afraid.”
He additionally stated, he by no means backed down. “You come to the purpose the place you lose any sense of concern, you come to that time the place you consider in one thing that is so good, so crucial, that you just’re ready to die for it.”
He is the one speaker nonetheless dwelling from the March on Washington in August of 1963, when King surprised the nation along with his searing “I’ve a dream” speech. Lewis was the youngest speaker to take the rostrum, as head of the Scholar Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, also referred to as SNCC. He remembers being dumbfounded by the quantity of people that packed the Lincoln Memorial.
“We thought possibly 75,000 to 100,000,” he remembers. “We did not have any concept that it could be greater than 250,000 folks. Blacks, whites, Latino’s, Asian People, folks from the labor motion, spiritual group, college students.”
Fifty years later, he is nonetheless upholding the legacy now — he is writing comedian books for teenagers concerning the civil rights motion.
“I really feel I’ve an obligation to do what I can, to inform the story and do what I can to encourage one other technology.”
Lewis was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the nation’s first black President, one thing he by no means dreamed he’d see in his lifetime. And practically 47 years later, he hasn’t forgotten the person who impressed him or that darkish day when Martin Luther King was killed. “I cried, I felt like I misplaced a brother, a buddy, my hero, my chief.”
Lewis displays on what King’s legacy has meant to his personal exceptional life.
“I do know one factor: I would not be within the Congress at present,” he says. “He modified my life, he helped make me the particular person I’m at present. I am so grateful for his management, for his imaginative and prescient. he taught us find out how to stay and find out how to die,” stated Lewis.
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