Press Contact: Yvonne French (202) 707-9191
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

January 19, 1999

Rep. John Lewis to Discuss His Book on the Civil Rights Movement at the Library of Congress February 2

Georgia Rep. John Lewis will discuss his book Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (Simon & Schuster, 1998) at the Library of Congress at noon February 2 in the Northwest Pavilion (LJ 119), which is on the first floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E.

Sponsored by the Library's Humanities and Social Sciences Division and the Center for the Book, the talk is free and open to the public. The presentation is part of the Center for the Book's "Books & Beyond" series and of the Library's celebration of African-American History Month.

Rep. Lewis's (D-Ga.) leadership in the Nashville movement -- a student-led effort based on the teachings of Gandhi that successfully desegregated the city of Nashville through nonviolent means -- became a model for the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

In 1961, Rep. Lewis participated in the Freedom Rides, which were organized to challenge segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. He risked his life and was beaten severely by mobs for participating in the rides.

During the height of the civil rights movement, from 1963 to 1966, Rep. Lewis was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form. The SNCC was largely responsible for the sit-ins and other activities of students in the struggle for civil rights. In spite of his youth, Rep. Lewis became a recognized leader in the civil rights movement. At the age of 23, he was one of the planners and a keynote speaker at the "March on Washington" in August 1963. In 1964, he coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the "Mississippi Freedom Summer."

The following year, Rep. Lewis led one of the most dramatic nonviolent protests of the movement. Along with fellow activist Hosea Williams, Rep. Lewis led 525 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 1965. Alabama state troopers attacked the marchers in a confrontation that became known as "Bloody Sunday." That fateful march and a subsequent march between Selma and Montgomery, Ala., presaged the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, Rep. Lewis remained a devoted advocate for the philosophy of nonviolence. After leaving SNCC in 1966, he remained active in the civil rights movement through his work as associate director of the Field Foundation and his participation in the Southern Regional Council's voter registration programs. Rep. Lewis went on to become the director of the Voter Education Project (VEP). Under his leadership, the VEP added nearly 4 million minorities to the voter rolls.

His first electoral success came in 1981 when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. This past November, he was elected to his seventh consecutive term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rep. Lewis co-wrote Walking with the Wind with Michael D'Orso, of Norfolk, Va. The title is based on one of Rep. Lewis's childhood experiences. At the age of 4, he and 15 young cousins and relatives literally "walked with the wind" as it threatened to pick up first one side and then the other of his aunt's tin-roof house during a severe thunderstorm in rural Alabama, where he was born into a family of sharecroppers. His Aunt Seneva told the children to hold hands and walk toward the corner of the house that was rising. "Our society is not unlike the children in that house, rocked again and again by the winds of one storm or another. ... But the people of conscience never left the house. ... They clasped hands and moved toward the corner of the house that was the weakest. ... That is America to me -- not just the movement for civil rights but the endless struggle to respond with decency, dignity and a sense of brotherhood to all the challenges that face us as a nation, as a whole," said Rep. Lewis.

The Library of Congress Humanities and Social Sciences Division provides reference service and collection development in the Main, Local History and Genealogy, Business and Microform reading rooms, and sponsors lectures in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress was established in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books, reading and libraries. Its program, which is supported mostly by private funds, reaches into every region of the country through a network of 36 affiliated state centers and more than 50 national educational and civic organizations. For more information about the Center for the Book and its activities, visit its Web site at www.loc.gov/loc/cfbook/.

Interpreting services (American Sign Language, Contact Signing, Oral and/or Tactile) will be provided if requested five business days in advance of the event. Call (202) 707-6362 TTY and voice to make a specific request. For other ADA accommodations, contact the Disability Employment office at (202) 707-9948 TTY and (202) 707-7544 voice.

# # #

PR 99-003
1/19/99
ISSN 0731-3527

Back to top