John Lewis: Civil rights icon, congressman dies at 80


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Representative John Lewis announced he had stage 4 cancer in December 2019

Representative John Lewis, a leader of the civil rights movement and later a member of the United States Congress, has died at the age of 80.

Lewis was one of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr, and helped organize the historic 1963 march in Washington.

As a congressman, he was a Democrat of Georgia and represented an area that covered most of its capital, Atlanta.

In December 2019, Lewis announced he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

“I have been in a kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for most of my life,” he said in a statement released at the time. “I have never faced a fight like the one I have now. ”

During the civil rights movement, Lewis was one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNCC), and then became its chairman from 1963 to 1966.

He co-organized and delivered a speech during the Washington March for Jobs and Freedom, the rally at which Dr. King delivered his historic speech I Have a Dream.

Lewis was the last surviving speaker of the march.

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John Lewis addressing the crowd at the historic March on Washington in 1963

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed Lewis’ death in a statement posted on his website and on social media.

She wrote that Lewis “was a titan of the civil rights movement whose kindness, faith and bravery transformed our nation”, and that as a member of Congress he was “revered and loved on both sides of the earth” ‘alley and on both sides of the Capitol’.

“Every day of John Lewis’ life has been dedicated to bringing freedom and justice to all,” she said. “As he said 57 years ago while walking on Washington, standing in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial:” Our minds, souls and hearts cannot rest until freedom and justice are met. ‘not exist for all the people’.

“How fitting that even in the final weeks of his battle with cancer, John gathered the strength to visit the peaceful protests where the new generation of Americans had taken to the streets to resume the unfinished business of justice. racial. “

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Media captionJohn Lewis spoke to the BBC about the March on Washington in 2013

When the death was announced, the civil rights group NAACP tweeted that they were “deeply saddened.”

“Its ongoing mission for justice, equality and freedom has left a permanent impression on our nation and our world,” the organization said. “The NAACP offers its sincere condolences to its family and we extend our prayers of comfort and strength to all. ”

Former presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren tweeted that Lewis “was a true American hero and the moral compass of our nation”.

Lewis’s death comes on the same day as fellow civil rights leader CT Vivian died at the age of 95. Vivian helped organize the Freedom Rides – a protest to integrate buses in the south – and then led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).


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