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John Lewis: An American Civil Rights Activist

1367 words - 6 pages

In the mid 1900's, America was finally now an independent country, but had many flaws within their undeveloped system. Racism and segregation towards African Americans was at an all time high in the Southern states. With the Jim Crow laws in place, the privileges that white Americans had were overwhelmingly more than African Americans had ("Civil Rights Movement," para. 1). During this period of injustice in our country's history, there were many activists of equal rights, both black and white. While there were many people who helped the cause, one of the most influential civil rights activists was John Lewis.
John Lewis is an African American man born on February 21st, 1940, into a sharecropping family in Pike County, Alabama (Moye, 2004). He grew up on his family's farm, and attended segregated public schools as a child. Even when he was just a young boy, Lewis was always inspired by the happenings of the Civil Rights Movement. Events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott or hearing the wise words of Martin Luther King Junior over the radio stimulated his desire to become a part of a worthwhile cause, and was a supporter of the Civil Rights Movement ever since ("Biography," para. 3). Lewis went to school at both the American Baptist Theological Seminary and Fisk University, both in Nashville, Tennessee. He graduated from the American Baptist Theological Seminary, and received a Bachelors degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University. While at Fisk, he learned the philosophy of how to be nonviolent, and would soon incorporate that into his civil rights work ("John Lewis Biography," para. 3). While he was a student at Fisk University, Lewis began putting together sit-ins at local lunch counters to protest segregation. Many were harassed, and even arrested for their peaceful resistance of the immoral laws (Moye, 2004). In 1961, Lewis decided to partake in the Freedom Rides. The Freedom Rides challenged the Jim Crow laws by having African Americans sit in seats that were designated for whites. Him and many other Freedom Riders were beaten and arrested for participating in these acts of defiance ("Biography," para. 4). By the time Lewis had joined the Freedom Riders, he had already been arrested five times ("WGBH American Experience," para. 1). The news of these attacks spread all over the nation, and now everyone was aware of the cruelty that the protesters were put through (Moye, 2004). In 1963, Lewis would be elected to chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, when former chairman Chuck McDew withdrew from the position ("SNCC-People: John Lewis," para. 3). Lewis was also one of the founders of the SNCC (“Biography,” para. 5). The SNCC, formally founded in 1960, held and participated in many nonviolent acts of protest such as sit-ins, Freedom Rides, ballots, and marches ("SNCC 1960-1966: Six years of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee"; "SNCC-Events"). In 1963, John Lewis was known as one of the 'Big...

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