On This Day in Civil Rights History

February 21, 1940- Civil Rights leader John Lewis is born

One of the most influential young leaders of the Civil Rights Movement is John Lewis. Lewis has dedicated his entire life to the cause of justice and equality. Born on February 21, 1940 in Troy, Alabama, Lewis learned hard work as his family lived as sharecroppers. Though Lewis didn’t have much of a formal education, he was able to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. While there, he became involved in nonviolent protests and lunch counter sit-ins. Lewis was arrested many times for participating in these protests, but it didn’t bother him. He knew it was essential for pushing forward the cause of civil rights.

The next protests Lewis became involved in were the Freedom Rides. He took part in the desegrated bus rides throughout the south, facing violence and persecution. He seemed to be relentless in his focus for the fight for civil rights. His focus can be credited to what he experienced as a child. He knew from a young age that he wasn’t allowed to check out books from the library. The books were only for white children, not “colored” children. Later on, Lewis took a trip to Buffalo, New York. There he saw that both white men and black men were working together. They used the same bathrooms and drank from the same drinking fountains. It was then he knew that equal rights and treatment were possible.

John Lewis never stopped fighting for civil rights. He went on to run for congress in 1987 and has held that seat since. His influence in congress is strong because of the choices he made at a young age. He has seen the country change in many ways and has been on the front lines of the cause for civil rights from the beginning.