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Rep. John Lewis to join civil rights journalists at SU symposium
Rep. John Lewis to join civil rights journalists at SU symposiumMarch 22, 2004Amy Schmitzaemehrin@syr.edu
Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, one of the most prominent leaders in the civil rights movement, will join Hodding Carter III and 19 journalists who covered the civil rights movement to mark the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling and the 40th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The group will convene April 24-25 at Syracuse University for a two-day symposium that will examine civil rights coverage of the 1950s and 1960s. Panelists will also reflect on today’s coverage of emerging civil rights movements and issues in the increasingly diverse society of the United States.
“John Lewis is a living tribute to the civil rights movement,” says Charlotte Grimes, the Knight Chair in Political Reporting in SU’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and coordinator of the symposium. “He represents the blood and passion that went into the movement, as well as the achievements that came out of it. We are thrilled that he will join our exceptional group of panelists to commemorate two important civil rights anniversaries.”
The son of sharecropper, Lewis was born in Alabama, where he attended segregated public schools. After organizing sit-in demonstration in Nashville, Lewis went on to volunteer in the 1961 Freedom Rides, which sought to challenge segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. As a result of participating in these rides, Lewis was severely beaten by angry mobs of segregationists.
From 1963-66, Lewis was the Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and became recognized as one of the “Big Six” leaders in the civil rights movement. In 1963, he was a keynote speaker at the historic “March on Washington.” In what would become a turning point for the civil rights movement, Lewis – then only 25 years old – and fellow activist Hosea Williams began a 54-mile march from Selma, Ala., to the capitol, Montgomery, leading more than 500 demonstrators seeking the right to vote. At the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Lewis and the others faced Alabama State Troopers who tried to disperse the marchers with clubs, tear gas and horses. The day – March 7, 1965 – became known as “Bloody Sunday” and the press coverage of the violence so shocked the nation that Congress responded with the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Photos of Lewis confronting the State Troopers and falling under their clubs became one of the civil rights movement’s most powerful, symbolic images.
In 1982, Lewis, a Democrat, began his political career on the Atlanta City Council. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986. His congressional district encompasses the city of Atlanta and parts of Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton and Cobb counties.
At the SU symposium, Lewis will speak on Sunday, April 25. “This will be an important, inspiring moment to reflect on the press’ role in covering civil rights,” says Grimes.
A highlight of the symposium will be the keynote address by Hodding Carter III, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The symposium is free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://civilrightsandthepress.syr.edu.