CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Congressman John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting civil rights and this weekend he’ll be encouraging Elms College students to do the same.
“I grew up seeing signs like this: colored and white,” Congressman Lewis said.
In an exclusive interview with 22News, Georgia Congressman John Lewis showed us photos and talked about growing up in a divided nation, when people of color were fighting for equal rights.
“Seeing Dr. King on television. Listening to his voice on the radio. Reading and hearing about Rosa Parks. I wanted to do something,” he said.
Lewis is now a well-known civil rights leader in his own right but it came with a price.
“This is from one of my many arrests. I was thinking, I’m just on my way to jail again.”
Lewis lead a march for voting rights in 1965 on what’s referred to as “Bloody Sunday.” He was severely beaten by police that day, trampled and gassed. He said he thought he was going to die until he was taken to the only hospital in the area that would accept black patients. There, he was treated by the Sisters of St. Joseph, the same order that founded Elms College.
Now, he gives back to the SSJ any way possible and this weekend he’ll deliver the commencement address to graduating Elms College students.
“Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. inspired me to get in trouble and I got in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble, and I will tell these young students, these unbelievably bright minds, that they too have an obligation, a mission to speak up, speak out when they see something that is not right, not fair, not just, just go for it,” Lewis said.
Lewis remembers how proud he felt after Bloody Sunday and the signing of the American Voting Rights Act of 1965.
As a Congressman he is still fighting for what’s right today, and will encourage students to do the same.
Click here if you missed the first story with Congressman John Lewis, where he talked to us about his experience on Bloody Sunday.
We’ll introduce you to one of the sisters of St. Joseph who treated Lewis after Bloody Sunday Friday on 22News at 6.