John Lewis Essay

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When we think of the word “Protest,” we may think of the events that have happened recently. Egypt, Turkey, Libya and other countries where citizens have come out to the streets protesting their government. Not all protesting approaches are like this. Many, throughout history, have been based around peaceful actions. This approach was used during one of the great line of protests in American history. The Civil Rights movement. Many leaders used peace to promote their cause and promoted the passing of laws such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The many leaders of this movement, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and others influenced others to join the strive for equality. One of these people that they influenced was John Lewis.

John Robert Lewis was born on February 21, 1940 in Troy, Alabama. The son of a sharecropping family, he resided on the family farm. Subject to the regular Jim Crow mindset of the South, he attend a segregated public school in Pike County, Alabama. Early on, he was influenced by civil rights role models such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. His family on the other hand, believed that there was no use trying to change the culture of the South, and advised him to stay out of trouble. He attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated from the American Baptist Theological Seminary which adds stories that he told of preaching to chickens for practice. Preaching to chickens aside, Lewis’ interest in the Civil Rights Movement continued to push him.

During his time at Fisk University, Lewis began to participate in civil rights protests such as sit-ins at segregated restaurants. Then, in 1961, he volunteered to be a part of the Freedom Riders. He often sat in “White only” seats which endangered his life. He continued to protest against the Jim Crow laws and was beaten by the police and mobs. Lewis was named the chairman of the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) which he helped to form. He spoke at the March on Washington in 1963 with 10 other speakers including his childhood hero, Martin Luther King Jr. Another one of his well known exploits was a peaceful protest that he led on March 7, 1965 in Selma, Alabama. The group of 600 marchers, making their way from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama, where protesting for the implementation of the Voting Right Act. In plain sight of the media, Alabama state troopers attacked the crowd. The media had a large impact on the United States as a whole. Once stations such as ABC aired the footage, eighty cities staged massive...

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