Long before they became civil rights icons, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and former Georgia State Senator Julian Bond were brave young adults who put their lives on the line as members the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.
On Monday, Lewis, Norton and Bond talked about overcoming blatant racism, beatings and death threats. Among those who didn’t survive were Michael H. Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney on June 21, 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi.
“They were detained by the Sheriff, taken to jail and, later that same evening, they were taken to the Klan where they were beaten, shot and killed,” Lewis said.
Norton said she brought the group together to show young people that there are many among them who have stories to tell.
“It is not that these are my friends,” Norton said. “We have all of this living history and we don’t always tap the living history that we need to hear from to inspire us, to show that it can still be done.”
Bond, a close confidant of the Rev. Martin Luther King, became the first African American ever elected to the Georgia State Senate.
“We have come long long way but we have a got a long way to go,” Bond said. “This a long long fight.”
Bond is concerned that African Americans might not have the same sense of urgency to vote in November as four years ago when President Obama was elected.
“The importance thing to do is to make sure everybody eligible to vote is registered and everybody registered votes on election day,” Bond said. “If we don’t do that, all is lost.”
Lewis was beaten many times during the movement but said that he learned to forgive his attackers.
“It is important to get over to people we came not out of anger but a since of hope and faith that we could change people,” he said. “We have the capacity to change and to grow and our movement was based on truth, love and reconciliation. We wanted to redeem the soul of America, a more perfect union.”
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