John Robert Lewis (born February 21, 1940) is an American politician and civil rights leader. He is the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district, serving since 1987, and is the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation. The district includes the northern three-quarters of Atlanta.
Civil Rights Activism
John Lewis was the youngest of the Big Six civil rights leaders and the chairman of the SNCC from 1963 to 1966, some of the most tumultuous years of the Civil Rights Movement. During his tenure, SNCC opened Freedom Schools, launched the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and organized the voter registration efforts that led to the pivotal Selma to Montgomery marches. As the chairman of SNCC, Lewis had written a speech in reaction to the Civil Rights Bill of 1963. He denounced the bill because it didn’t protect African Americans against police brutality. It also did not provide African Americans the right to vote.
In October 2008, Lewis issued a statement criticizing the campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin and accusing them of “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” in a way that brought to mind the late Gov. George Wallace and “another destructive period” in American political history. McCain said he was “saddened” by the criticism from “a man I’ve always admired,” and called on Obama to repudiate Lewis’s statement. Obama responded to the statement, saying that he “does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies.” Lewis later issued a follow-up statement clarifying that he had not compared McCain and Palin to Wallace himself, but rather that his earlier statement was a “reminder to all Americans that toxic language can lead to destructive behavior.”
2016 Gun Safety Legislation Sit-In
On June 22, 2016, House Democrats, led by Lewis and Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark, began a sit-in demanding House Speaker Paul Ryan allow a vote on gun safety legislation in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting. Speaker pro tempore Daniel Webster ordered the House into recess, but Democrats have since refused to leave the chamber.
As Representative John Lewis stated in 2008, during the historical presidential election, this society has been dealing with the toxic language that have led to destructive behavior in the country. Mass shootings, grid lock in the congress, cultural tension and an angry public.