Iconic Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis (1940-2020) will be remembered not only for his many years representing Georgia's 5th Congressional District, but for his lifelong dedication to challenging racial injustice, getting into “good trouble,” and advocating for freedom and equality as well. Among his many actions for justice, Lewis co-founded and served as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1963-1966, helped organize the March on Washington, led the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on what would become known as “Bloody Sunday,” and was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders. He later became known as “the conscience of the Congress,” and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Lewis was also a book lover and a dedicated advocate for libraries, speaking as an honored guest at many American Library Association and Library of Congress events. In a recent blog post remembering Lewis, Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden wrote that Lewis was a walking hero, a living history maker whose words and deeds had a “thunderous impact” on her soul. The School Library Journal also remembered Lewis’ message of social justice, delivered at the organization’s summit in 2016, where he recalled a schoolteacher who urged him to “Read, my child, read!” Lewis read as much as possible despite, at 16 years old, being denied a library card and told that his local Alabama library was for whites only. Lewis also spoke of how his late wife, Lillian Miles Lewis, a librarian and educator, contributed to his love of books. He stated, “With books, with reading… you can dream dreams and you can stand up and speak up and speak out and be inspired by texts or by words.”
Readings & Resources
Lewis himself authored several books to inspire speaking up and speaking out. He won the 2017 Coretta Scott King Book Award, the 2016 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, and several other honors for March: Book Three, along with co-author Andrew Aydin and illustrator Nate Powell. The March trilogy is a graphic memoir that recounts Lewis’ childhood and his vital role in the civil rights movement.
Jenkins members can use the remote database Newsbank to find a plethora of news articles from across the country in which Lewis appears. Newsbank’s People in the News feature currently lists Lewis on its page and links users to a custom search that produces articles about him.
ProQuest Congressional is a Jenkins member database that can be used to explore documents from Representative Lewis’ service in US Congress (1987-2020). From the ProQuest Congressional homepage, use the “Members & Committees” tab to select “Member Records” from the dropdown menu. Then type Lewis, John into the "Member" field, select “Lewis, John R. (D-GA) [100-116]” from the autofill menu that appears, and click the teal Search button.
From the resulting page, you’ll be able to view over 1,100 results related to Lewis’ work in Congress. His Member Profile includes his Committee assignments, bills sponsored, floor statements, voting record, and more. The results in the Congressional Record section list the remarks he made on the House floor throughout the years. His most recent speech, in which he introduced the Juvenile Incarceration Reduction Act of 2020, was made on July 16, the day before his death, epitomizing the meaning of lifelong service.