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Biographical Details of Leadership
Contemporary Lens on Black Leadership
Historical Focus on Race
Born to Alabama sharecroppers in 1940, U.S. Congressman John Lewis is now in his eighth term representing the 5th District of Georgia.
Lewis came of age during the civil rights movement; he met Martin Luther King, Jr. at age eighteen, and as a student in Tennessee, organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters.
During his undergraduate years at Fisk University, Lewis studied religion and philosophy. He also graduated from the American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville.
By 1961, the youthful leader joined the Freedom Riders in protesting segregation on interstate busses and despite physical attacks and repeated arrests, remained deeply committed to the cause of peaceful protest. Lewis helped to found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and in turn served as its chairman in the mid-1960s. At twenty-three, he helped organize the historic March on Washington, and the following year he helped lead activists across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, again suffering serious injuries during the "Bloody Sunday" attacks there by Alabama state troopers.
Lewis earned an elected seat on the Atlanta City Council in 1981 by holding leadership positions in voter registration efforts and in the ACTION program. Lewis' seat on the council paved the way for his role in national politics, where he has been praised as "a rising star." For many years, he has been on the powerful House Means and Ways Committee, and as a Democrat is the ranking minority leader of the Congressional Subcommittee on Oversight.
In addition to his work in civil rights activism and government, Lewis has also authored two books. The first, Walking with the Wind, was published in 1999. In 2012, he published Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change.