- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame
Congressman John Lewis
John Lewis
1940 - present

Congressman John Lewis has dedicated his life to the non-violent struggle for social change since his days as a seminary student in Tennessee. He helped establish the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960 and became a Freedom Rider in 1961, traveling through the South with white activists to protest segregation on interstate buses. His bravery and unwavering advocacy for human rights propelled him to national prominence. As the chairman of SNCC (1963-1966), he was the youngest of the Civil Rights Movement's "Big Six," leaders which included Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer and Roy Wilkins. At 23, he gave one of the keynote speeches at the 1963 March On Washington. He planned and coordinated SNCC's participation in Freedom Summer of 1964, a time when black and white students came to the South to participate in movement activities. On March 7, 1965, Lewis and SCLC's Hosea Williams led the Selma to Montgomery March for voting rights. That day became known as "Bloody Sunday" after local authorities fractured Lewis' skull and beat other marchers as they crossed the Edmond Pettus Bridge. After a televised appeal by Lewis, President Lyndon Johnson urged Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. After leaving SNCC in 1966, Lewis directed the Voter Education Project and later headed the federal volunteer agency ACTION (1977-1980). Before beginning public service as U.S. Congressman from Georgia, Lewis served as an Atlanta city councilman in the early 1980s.

John Lewis, the son of sharecroppers, was so inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956) that as a college student in 1959 he organized sit-ins at lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. Lewis earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree from American Baptist Theological Seminary and a Bachelor degree in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University.

Congressman Lewis has received the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Spingarn Medal, the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize. In 1998, he published his autobiography Walking With The Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. His wife Lillian Miles is a university administrator in Atlanta. They have one son, John Miles.