John Lewis's Legacy
By: Charles Xue
John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and activist who played a large role in the Civil Rights Movement, died on July 17. On Sunday, surrounded by mourners, his body was pulled by a horse-drawn cart across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the very same bridge where Lewis helped marshal demonstrators for a march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965, which became known as Bloody Sunday.
At Lewis’ service on Sunday morning, many people lined up to pay their respects. During the service, his family and pastors talked about his message of “good trouble”, a belief stating that change can happen when people are willing to protest against oppression. “Good trouble allowed John to cross bridges blockaded by legalized lynchmen who were inspired by the false notion of racial supremacy,” said Darryl Caldwell, a pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.
During the services, many people Lewis had not even met spoke about him.
“He always made you feel like you were somebody,” said Pasay Davidson, a fourth-grade teacher from Ozark, Alabama.
“Sharon Calkins-Tucker identified with him, she said, because she was also outspoken. ‘Without us,’ she said, ‘nothing would get out and nothing would ever change.’”
The tribute in Selma also served as an acknowledgement of the fact that a new generation is emerging to carry on the Civil Rights Movement.
The New York Times states, “‘It is the young among us in Alabama and across this nation who can heal what we have failed to heal in our lifetimes, no matter how hard John tried,’ Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, a Democrat, said during a memorial service on Saturday night, contending that Mr. Lewis had been heartened by the younger activists leading the Black Lives Matter effort.”
“He confidently looked around and said, ‘All is well,’” Mr. Jones said. “It is time for the torch to be passed. It is time for me to let go.”
During his final trip to the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Sunday, police officers, the successors of the ones who had bombarded him and the rest of the demonstrators with tear gas 55 years ago, stood on either side of the bridge guiding him to Montgomery.