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Honoring a Hero

John Lewis stands on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma, Alabama, in 2015. RANT SANDERLIN—THE ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION/AP

John Lewis was a congressman for Georgia. He was one of the last living leaders of the civil rights movement. He died of cancer on July 17, 2020. He was 80 years old.

“John Lewis was an American treasure,” Martin Luther King III said when Lewis died. “He gave a voice to the voiceless.” King is the oldest son of Martin Luther King Jr.

Lewis spent his life fighting for equality. In 1963, he walked beside Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington. Lewis spoke at the event. “How long can we be patient?” he asked. “We want our freedom, and we want it now.”

John Lewis speaks at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, on August 28, 1963.

AFRO AMERICAN NEWSPAPERS/GADO/GETTY IMAGES

In 1965, Lewis helped lead another march. It began in Selma, Alabama. About 600 protesters pushed for voting rights for Black people. Police met them at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Protesters were ordered to turn back. They refused. Some were attacked. The nation was outraged by the violence. But the march drew support for the Voting Rights Act. Five months later, President Johnson signed it into law.

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