John Lewis: Freedom Rider

In a 1961 strategy meeting, members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) gather in Alabama to discuss their next moves. Key among them is a young activist named John Lewis, a member of SNCC who had been attacked by the Ku Klux Klan in Rock Hill, South Carolina mere days before this photograph.

The Freedom Rides were a critical moment in Lewis’ career, but they were not his first or last demonstration during the Civil Rights Movement. Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations with the Nashville Student Movement at lunch counters across Nashville, Tennessee while attending Fisk University in 1960 and was integral in the creation of SNCC later that year. After the Freedom Rides, Lewis spent the next years of his life dedicated to nonviolent change, becoming SNCC Chairman in 1961 and once again putting his life in danger in Selma in 1965.

Congressman John Lewis has represented Georgia’s Fifth District since 1986 and continues to advocate for what he calls “Good Trouble.”

We would like to thank the anonymous donor of Bruce Davidson photographs. If you have an item that you would like to offer the National Civil Rights Museum as we grow our collection, please contact me, Schillica Howard at collections@civilrightsmuseum.org.

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