Changemakers of Our Time: John Lewis
John Lewis was a Civil Rights leader and U.S. Representative who was at the forefront of the movement for racial equality. Lewis, born in 1940 in Troy, Alabama, grew up in a time of racial segregation in America. He was heavily inspired by the work and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1955-1956 Montgomery bus boycott; the boycott against the policy of racial segregation on the public transit system in the city of Montgomery, Alabama.
In 1957, Lewis left his home to attend a seminar about nonviolent protests. From this, he began to help organize and execute several nonviolent protests, including sit-in protests at segregated lunch counters. Although these nonviolent protests led to his arrest, he was still heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement. In fact, he became a Freedom Rider in 1961, became a chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1963, and participated in multiple nonviolent protests, including the March on Washington and the March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Both of these protests led to significant change for the Civil Rights movement, including the implementation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
He later became the director of the Voter Education Project, a project that helped to register millions of Black and minority citizens to vote. He was also elected into the House of Representatives in 1986 where he fought for reform in healthcare, education, and poverty. Up until his death, he took part in a multitude of projects and political strategies to help enrich minority communities and advocate for racial equality. Although he passed in July of 2020, John Lewis is still considered to be one of the most influential people in the Civil Rights movement.