Congressman John Lewis to speak at Troy University on Freedom Riders

Posted: Wednesday, 15 February 2012

TROY – As a special part of the McPherson-Mitchell Lecture Series on Southern History, a Pike County native, United States congressman and a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, will address faculty, staff, students and guests at Troy University.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) will conduct the address at Noon on Monday, Feb. 20 in the Claudia Crosby Theater.

"John Lewis is one of the major figures of the Civil Rights era. As a native of Troy, he - better than anyone else - can bring that important period of American history alive for students of this University," said Dr. David Carlson, an assistant professor of history at TROY who coordinates the lecture series.

Considered one of the "Big Six" leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, Congressman Lewis stands alongside such leaders as Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer and Roy Wilkins as playing a pivotal role in during the era, and participated in or organized almost every major civil rights event of the 1960s.

As a student at American Baptist College, he organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tenn. In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, challenging segregated bus terminals across the South. At age 23, he was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in 1963. From that year, until 1966, he served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an organization he helped form. In 1964, he coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer. The following year he helped spearhead the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, now known as "Bloody Sunday."

Elected to Congress in 1986 from Georgia's Fifth Congressional District, he serves as senior chief deputy whip of the Democrat party in the house and is a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, and its subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support. He chairs its subcommittee on Oversight.

"While the McPherson-Mitchell Lecture in Southern History, given on January 26 by Prof. Ray Arsenault, offered a very broad overview of the 1961 Freedom Rides, Congressman Lewis' talk will be based on his personal experiences as a student organizer and participant in the Freedom Rides," said Dr. Carlson. "This should be an exciting and inspirational presentation that will demonstrate the potential that all students have in making important contributions to society."