July 18, 2020
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum mourns the passing of Congressman John Lewis, an exceptional leader of the Civil Rights Movement whose heroic actions and commitment to the peaceful pursuit of racial justice helped shape our nation.
A long-standing friend of the institution he often spoke about the emotional impact of his many visits to the Museum and was a Congressionally appointed member of our governing Council. In 2016, Lewis was the recipient of the Museum’s highest honor, its Elie Wiesel Award, in recognition of his extraordinary moral and physical courage and his enduring commitment to promoting the human dignity of all people.
In his acceptance speech, he eloquently reflected on his own activism: “We didn’t give up. We didn’t give in. We kept the faith. . . . we must never hate, for hate is too heavy a burden to bear. As the late A. Philip Randolph said as we were planning the March on Washington for August 28, 1963, . . . ’Maybe our foremothers and forefathers all came to this land in different ships, but we all are in the same boat now.’”
The son of sharecroppers who grew up on his family farm in Alabama, Lewis attended segregated public schools. Later he would play a crucial role in many historic events, such as the Freedom Rides. At the age of only 23, he was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the March on Washington and was one of the leaders of the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, which because of the violence against protesters, became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Despite more than 40 arrests and physical attacks, Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence.
He was elected to Congress in 1986 and represented Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District until his passing.
The Museum sends its heartfelt condolences to the entire Lewis family.
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