Civil Rights icon and Congressman Rep. John Lewis will be honored at the Alliance for a Better Georgia’s Third Annual Comedy Roast and presented the Progressive Courage Award on August 31. As we prepare for the big event, we’re looking back on the incredible impact Lewis has left on American history and Georgia politics.
John Lewis never stops pushing for progress.
Though the Civil Rights Act passed after a successful March on Washington, Lewis was prepared to continue the fight for African-American rights. Just as he had worried, the Civil Rights Act did not protect African Americans from the violence and legal barriers they met at voting polls.
Lewis took action once again to bring attention to injustice by organizing a nonviolent march. In March of 1965, Lewis and Hosea Williams led a march from Selma, Ala. to Montgomery, Ala. to demand an end to discrimination in voter registration.
The event received national attention when, on March 7, the first day of the protest, the peaceful demonstrators collided with Alabama State Troopers at Edmund Pettus Bridge. The troopers beat back the 600 marchers with billy clubs and tear gas, driving them back to Selma.
Lewis himself was injured, suffering a fractured skull, and it did not go unnoticed. People across the country saw recordings of the brutality on prime-time network news, and the powerful images branded this day in history as “Bloody Sunday.”
However, the violence could not stop the push for justice. After the U.S. Justice Department filed suit in Montgomery, and a judge ruled in the marchers’ favor, about 3,200 people marched out of Selma for Montgomery under the protection of federal troops. The number of marchers grew to 25,000 over the five day period it took them to reach their destination.
The march quickly translated into legal action: a few months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which eliminated the legal barriers preventing African Americans from voting. This legislation has been called the single most effective piece of Civil Rights legislation ever passed by Congress, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Lewis’ leadership during this critical time translated to real change for African Americans, and this is only one of his many achievements in the Civil Rights Movement.
At the Alliance for a Better Georgia’s Third Annual Comedy Roast, Rep. Lewis and his legacy will be honored with a night of Good Trouble as his friends and colleagues laugh with him and the Alliance presents him with the prestigious Progressive Courage Award.
Join the fun on August 31 at 6 p.m. at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center to honor one of the most important Civil Rights heroes in American history.