Jon Meacham is a wonderful historian and his biography on President George H.W. Bush was one of my favorite biographies I read over the last five years.
His new book, “His Truth Is Marching on: John Lewis and The Power of Hope,” is a powerful and enthralling piece of work that concentrates on the life of Mr. Lewis from about 1954 to 1968 with an afterword by John Lewis (which I read over a number of times it was so moving) that he wrote shortly before his death just a few months ago.
My definition of a hero is a person who stands up for what is right, takes a bullet for a friend or an innocent civilian, when he/she could have just as easily walked away. John Lewis meets my definition of a hero, not just once, but so many times that I lost count. He believed in the gospel of non-violent protest that Dr. Martin Luther King preached. They were friends and he would grieve when Dr. King was assassinated, and when Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, President Kennedy, and so many others who died in some measure because they believed in the simple statement, “That all men are created equal.” That blacks should be able to sit at a lunch counter and be served, that blacks should be allowed to vote without worrying about getting their heads beat in, that segregation in the schools, transportation, and housing was wrong, dead wrong. That the “Jim Crow Laws” were disgraceful, insulting, and an injustice that was allowed to survive over a hundred years since the end of the Civil War.
John Lewis is a Civil Rights icon and deserving so. His body is a testament to his belief in non-violence and justice for all. He was beat up so badly so many times that it is a miracle that he wasn’t among the dead heroes mentioned above. Inside the very movement he led, he was occasionally criticized for being too nice, but he never gave in to the splinter groups that said it’s time to fight back with force. He was steadfast in his beliefs and in the end he was victorious, even if that victory is still not complete.
People will argue that America is not the prejudice society it once was, that we have had a black President and I am quick to remind them that blacks were among the first race of people to come to America over 350 years ago. If allowed the freedom that other settlers had, there probably would of been many black Presidents.
The America I see today still has a long way to go, and Dr. King’s ‘dream’ still has not been realized, and sadly it seems that we have taken a number of steps backwards in the fight for racial justice.