On March 7, 1965, John Lewis led a nonviolent march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama as part of a cumulative effort to secure the right to vote for Black people. They were met with a show of force—lined troopers, baton in hand, tear gas. In years previous as a young activist, Lewis had become accustomed to this scene, but not once did he fight back, not once did he retaliate. Guided by the discipline and philosophy of nonviolence—to lead with love over hate—Lewis tells us, “We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters, if not, we will perish as fools.”
The senseless violence in Selma fixated the attention of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who, in an address to the nation, implicated Americans to confront and overcome our history of bigotry and discrimination—and soon thereafter passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Even so, embedded injustice prevails, and in the subsequent decades, Lewis continued to fight for justice and the right to vote for all Americans.
Lewis wrote, “Faith is being so sure of what the spirit has whispered in your heart that your belief in its eventuality is unshakeable. Nothing can make you doubt that what you have heard will become a reality. Even if you do not see it come to pass, you know without one doubt that it will be. That is faith.” On the 55th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday, Lewis led his final march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, reminding us to keep this faith, resist silence, and speak up in the face of injustice.
“That was the power of the way of peace, the way of love...to say to elected officials, to say to the larger American community, 'we can change. We can help redeem the soul of America.'”
- John Lewis