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John Lewis, Big Six Legend Dies at 80

by Janel Sanders


On Friday, July 17, 2020, Congressman John Robert Lewis, Civil Rights Leader who led the 1965 march in Selma, Alabama, passed away from a six-month battle with cancer. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, confirmed his death in a public statement. His death comes as a great loss, but his role in history was a great victory for America.

John Lewis was the son of a sharecropper who was born just outside of Troy, Alabama. He grew up going to segregated public schools. Angered by the Jim Crow Laws in the South, he was inspired to join the Civil Rights Movement shortly after the Montgomery Bus Boycott and hearing Martin Luther King Jr. on broadcast radio. He became one of the standing progressive leaders for social movements and human rights in the U.S. By 1963, Lewis was appointed chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and staged many peaceful protest including sit-ins and other activities.


SNCC became a major student organization in the Movement. He was 23 when he, along with other Civil Rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., organized the March on Washington in August of 1963. It was then he was dubbed one of the Big Six Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

One of Lewis most notable movements was when he and Hosea Williams led 600 peaceful protestors across Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Though the protest ended in a brutal confrontation with the police, this event rushed the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Lewis continued his work through the years as he held many roles such as Associate Director of the Field Foundation and later was elected to sit on Atlanta City Council.


His advocation for ethics in the government earned him the title of Congressman and the U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District in 1986. For the past three decades, Congressman John Lewis has served in this position continuing his fight for equality of human rights.  “I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life,” he said.

Congressman Lewis devoted his life to fighting for equality, freedom, justice, and peace. We celebrate his life as he did so much to fight and save ours. John Robert Lewis will be greatly missed, not just by his family, but by those that stood by him in our fight for justice.

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