In a long life of activism, Rep. John Lewis never shied away from speaking out. A few quotations:
“As I was growing up in rural Alabama, I saw all around me the system of segregation and racial discrimination. The visible signs in the little town of Troy, the population of about 7,000, we saw the sign that said ‘colored only.’ White only. Colored waiting. .... In a little 5&10 store was a civil fountain, a clean fountain for white people to come and drink water, but in another corner of the store there was a little spigot, a rusty spigot, (that) said ‘colored drinking.’ And I became resentful of the sign and all the visible evidence of segregation and racial discrimination.”
— Interview conducted for “America, They Loved You Madly,” a precursor to the 1987 documentary “Eyes on the Prize.”
“You saw these men putting on their gas masks and behind the state troopers are a group of men, part of the sheriff’s posse, on horses. They came toward us, beating us with nightsticks, trampling us with horses, and releasing their tear gas. I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a nightstick. My legs went from under me. I don’t know how I made it back across the bridge but apparently a group just literally took me back.”
— Recounting the Bloody Sunday confrontation of March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, in an oral history interview conducted by the House historian, Dec. 11, 2014.
“Selma is a place where we injected something very meaningful into our democracy. We opened up the political process and made it possible for hundreds and thousands and millions of people to come in and be participants.”
— Oral history interview conducted by the House historian, Dec. 11, 2014.
“He was my friend. He was my hero. I loved him. He was like a big brother.”
— Reflecting on his relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during interview on Jan. 17, 2015.
“Our goal was true freedom for every American. Since then, America has made a lot of progress. We are a different society than we were in 1961. And in 2008 we showed the world the true promise of America when we elected President Barack Obama.”
— Campaign speech for Obama in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 6, 2012.
“My dear friends: Your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.”
— Speech in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sept. 6, 2012.
“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”
— Remarks atop the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 1, 2020.