1940 - 2020
On a building at 219 Auburn Avenue artist Sean Schwab painted a mural of John Lewis that for almost two decades has overlooked the late congressman’s 5th district. Some would say it’s a larger-than-life portrait of the man whose skull was fractured and his body bloodied as he stopped to pray on the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
Yet anyone who knew Lewis — or knows of his courage, his commitment, indeed, his steadfastness in working to secure first the civil rights of African Americans and, more recently, all minorities in the United States — knows that the five-story image is dwarfed by the man’s belief in righteousness, equality, and justice for all.
Lewis was small in stature and humble by nature, but the words he spoke for over five decades — whether challenging segregation in the South, leading sit-ins at whites-only business establishments in the ‘60s; as an organizer and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; or, as a member of Congress since 1986 — will echo for generations to come.
The last surviving member of the Big Six leaders of the civil rights movement, including A. Philip Randolph, Whitney M. Young Jr., Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, and Roy Wilkins, Lewis remained dedicated to the cause, most recently speaking out in support of the protests that erupted around the world in the weeks following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of police officers in Minnesota, May 25. -CL-