Page 7 - Amazing Black Lives
P. 7

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act became the law of the land, but in the South,
                   attaining those equal rights remained a struggle.         Activists who protested
                   peacefully, termed civil disobedience, were aware that they would almost
                   certainly be treated harshly by those resisting change, yet they persisted.
                   Lewis was arrested 40 times between 1960 and 1966 for protesting racial
                   practices and laws in the South.       Lewis would later call these arrests and
                   beatings “good trouble.”      In 1965, he and Hosea Williams led a march in
                   Alabama from Selma to Montgomery in support of equality.          While protesting,
                   Lewis was beaten so severely by state troopers that he suffered a fractured
                   skull.  Labeled “Bloody Sunday” due to the gruesome images which became
                   public after this attack, this event was perhaps the turning point in the passage
                   of the U.S. Voting Rights Act, which followed shortly thereafter.         Still, the
                   nation remained embroiled in turmoil, unrest and change.

                   In 1968, both Dr. King and Senator Robert Kennedy were assassinated in
                   separate unprovoked events.        These were two huge losses to justice, and
                   they shocked the country.     Devastated, Lewis became even more committed
                   to equality and activism, helping to register millions of minority voters in 1970
                   as director of the Voter Education Project.    After being elected to Congress in
                   1986, Lewis called for health care reform, poverty-fighting measures, as well
                   as improvements in the educational system of the country.         He continued to
                   fight inequality and complacency, saying in 2016, “We have been too quiet for
                   too long.   There comes a time when you have to say something.           You have
                   to make a little noise. You have to move your feet.      This is the time.”

                   In addition to his work in Congress, Lewis created a series of graphic children’s
                   novels about his work in the civil rights movement.     He won the National Book
                   Award for his third book in the series, March: Book Three, in 2016.       This was
                   the first time a graphic novel had been awarded this honor. In accepting his
                   award, Lewis spoke of its significance in an emotional acceptance speech.
                   “Some of you know I grew up in rural Alabama, very poor, very few books in
                   our home,” Lewis said. “I remember in 1956, when I was 16 years old, going to
                   the public library to get library cards, and we were told the library was for
                   whites only and not for coloreds.     And to come here and receive this honor,
                   it’s too much.”   He continued, speaking about the importance of books in his
                   life.  “I had a wonderful teacher in elementary school who told me: ‘Read, my
                   child, read’, and I tried to read everything.    I love books.”     The civil rights
                   leader received numerous other awards, including the Presidential Medal of
                   Freedom, the NAACP's Spingarn Medal and the sole John F. Kennedy "Profile
                   in Courage Award" for Lifetime Achievement.

                   In December 2019, Lewis made it public that he had been diagnosed with
                   Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.       He stated he was optimistic, but “clear-eyed”
                   about his prognosis, encouraged that medical advancements had made this
                   type of cancer treatable in many cases. "I have been in some kind of fight -- for
                   freedom, equality, basic human rights -- for nearly my entire life.   I have never
                   faced a fight quite like the one I have now," he said.   This was one battle that
                   he was unable to win.     Sadly, America’s beloved icon, John Lewis, lion of civil
                   rights, passed away on July 17, 2020 at age eighty. His spirit still soars.
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