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Remembering the life and legacy of John Lewis

Rep. John Lewis, a Civil Rights hero, died of pancreatic cancer Friday night. A supporter of civic engagement, including the ongoing global Black Lives Matter protests, Lewis had been beaten and arrested several times during the Civil Rights Movement. Known for powerful speeches, he advocated for getting into “good trouble” all his life. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    John Lewis, one of the leaders of the civil rights movement and a member of congress for more than 33 years died yesterday of pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old.

    Lewis was diagnosed with stage four cancer last December but continued to work, to vote in the House of Representatives and to speak out as the Black Lives Matter movement and protests began this spring.

    In early June, Lewis visited the newly-named Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington D.C.

  • John Lewis:

    People in DC and around the nation are sending a mighty, powerful and strong message to the rest of the world. That we will get there.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In March, he traveled to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to attend the 55th anniversary of the voting rights protest and march there that became known as "Bloody Sunday".

    In 1965, Lewis was severely injured on the bridge along with many others when state police attacked the peaceful demonstrators.

    He was beaten and arrested dozens of times at sit-ins, marches, and other non-violent demonstrations demanding equal rights.

    Known for his powerful speeches, Lewis frequently reminded audiences that they needed to speak up and stand up for what is right.

  • John Lewis:

    When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just: say something, do something. Get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    John Lewis was born on February 21, 1940, outside of Troy, Alabama, the son of sharecroppers.

    He attended segregated public schools and said it was the activism and the radio broadcasts of Martin Luther King Jr., that inspired him to dedicate his life to civil rights.

    Lewis left Alabama for college in Tennessee where he helped organize sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville.

    In 1961, he was one of the original freedom riders who challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the south.

    Lewis helped found the student nonviolent coordinating committee and became a key ally of Martin Luther King Jr.

    At age 23, Lewis was the youngest speaker at the 1963 march on Washington where King gave his "I Have A Dream" speech.

  • John Lewis:

    We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of people being locked up in jail over and over again. And then you holler 'be patient.' How long can we be patient? We want our freedom and we want it now!

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In an interview with NewsHour's Gwen Ifill in 2013 Lewis reflected on his words that day.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    When you gave your speech that day, you were considered to be a radical. Everybody remembers the "I Have A Dream" speech as being this uplifting speech about togetherness and brotherhood, but yours was a little tougher.

  • John Lewis:

    I felt that we had to be tough. I had to deliver a speech that reflected the feeling, the views of the young people, and also the views and feelings of the people that was struggling in the Black belt of Alabama, in southwest Georgia, in the Delta of Mississippi.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Lewis was elected to the House of Representatives from the district that includes much of Atlanta in 1986, becoming only the second African-American to represent Georgia in Congress since reconstruction.

    Lewis continued to stand up and cause the good trouble he advocated throughout his life.

  • John Lewis:

    We're calling on the leadership of the house to bring common-sense gun control legislation to the house floor.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    He led a sit-in on the floor of the House in 2016 demanding gun control legislation after the Pulse nightclub mass killing in Orlando, Florida.

    He chose not to attend the inaugurations of presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

    In 2011, President Barack Obama awarded Lewis the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    Today Mr. Obama paid tribute to Lewis writing, He loved this country so much that he risked his life and his blood so that it might live up to its promise. And through the decades, he not only gave all of himself to the cause of freedom and justice but inspired generations that followed to try to live up to his example.

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