The nation is mourning the loss of American hero, Civil Rights leader and good trouble-maker Congressman John Lewis.
Despite knowing he was a giant in the fight for equality and justice in our country for half century, I’m embarrassed to admit that his death has revealed just how little I truly know his life’s work. I plan to do something about that.
If you want to join me in learning, remembering and honoring John Lewis, here are some books, a movie and simple actions you can take to honor his legacy.
Co-authored by Lewis, the March graphic novel trilogy brings his fight for justice to life. The three books tell his story from childhood in rural Alabama to his mid-twenties when be was one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement. These are a great option for children to learn from Lewis in his own words, accompanied by striking drawn images.
The books are the first graphic novel authored by a sitting member of Congress. Lewis was awarded the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for Book 3. During his emotional acceptance speech, Lewis reflected on being denied a library card as a child because of the color of his skin.
John Lewis’ memoir, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, is an award-winning best seller from 2015. From childhood to working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to over 40 arrests and brutal beatings, what a gift to hear Lewis’ life story in his own words.
Written in 2017, Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change is never more relevant. The book offers inspiring motivation for those of us dedicated to changing the world. Taking the lessons from his life as an activist, Across That Bridge offers “timeless wisdom, poignant recollections, and powerful principles for anyone interested in challenging injustices and inspiring real change toward a freer, more peaceful society.”
Released earlier this month, John Lewis: Good Trouble is available to rent on Amazon Prime. The film uses a combination of archival footage, recent events, and contemporary interviews. The result is a one hour 37 minute must-watch film that effortlessly connects the civil rights battles of Lewis’s life to current events.
This intimate account of legendary U.S. Representative John Lewis’s life and legacy takes us through his more than 60 years of activism-from the bold teenager on the front lines of the Civil Rights’ movement to the legislative powerhouse he is today.
John Lewis: Good Trouble is rated 18+ based on violence in historical footage. From what I’ve read, it’s appropriate for kids. I’ll be watching it with mine and will update after we do.
There is no better way to remember John Lewis than to honor his life with action. No doubt there will be countless ideas and suggestions moving forward, and I humbly share two action items that you can do today.
Restore Voting Rights
First, Call Your Senator and demand a vote on the Voting Rights Advancement Act. Last December, John Lewis presided over the House of Representatives as it voted to approve H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill restores and modernizes important protections from the Voting Rights Act to ensure minority voters across the country are able to participate equally in the electoral process. The Senate never voted on the bill and it sits on Mitch McDonnell’s desk.
Lewis gave his blood, sweat and tears – literally – fighting for the right of Black people to vote. Let’s honor his fight by calling Mitch McConnell and our Senators to ask for a vote on the Voting Rights Amendment Act.
- How to Call Congress
- Here’s what to say to your Senators: “My name is [name] and I am a registered voter in [zip code]. I am calling to ask you to request the Senate take up the Voting Rights Amendment Act. The House has already passed this important bill to ensure equal access to voting. It restores and modernizes the Voting Rights Act and would honor the legacy of your colleague John Lewis. Please take a stand for voters, protect our rights and tell McConnell you want a vote on this bill as soon as possible. Thank you.”
- Here’s what to say to McConnell’s office: “My name is [name] and I am a concerned voter from [state]. I am urging Senator McConnell to take a stand for voters, protect our rights and bring the Voting Rights Amendment Act to the Senate floor for a vote. Thank you.”
Rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge
The next piece of activism you can do right now to honor John Lewis’ life is urge decision-makers to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
In 1965, when Lewis was the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he co-led a march for Black voting rights that crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on their way to the capital city of Montgomery. Alabama state troopers beat demonstrators in what became known as Bloody Sunday. Lewis suffered a cracked skull when a state trooper beat him to the ground with a nightstick. He subsequently returned to Selma every year to commemorate the anniversary of the march.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge is now a National Historic Landmark, a clear indication of his significance. Unfortunately, it is still named after a former Confederate General and KKK leader. Gross. Due to Alabama law, the bridge can only be re-named if the state legislature explicitly votes to do so.
- Sign a petition to change the name of the bridge to the John Lewis Bridge.
- Join the John Lewis Bridge Project.