African American Heritage

John Lewis (February 21, 1940 - July 17, 2020)

There was perhaps no single figure whose own life and career embodied the promise, success, and continued challenges of civil rights for Black Americans than John Lewis. Born in 1940 in Alabama, Lewis was at the forefront of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. A co-founder and chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Lewis led and helped organize many of the seminal moments in the Civil Rights movement, including the Freedom Rides, the 1963 March on Washington, and the Selma to Montgomery Marches. The youngest of the major Civil Rights leaders of the era, Lewis could have been seen addressing the March on Washington before Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” and meeting with President’s Kennedy and Johnson as well as personally facing down threats, arrest, and violence, most famously during the “Bloody Sunday” Selma March in 1965. During the late 1960s through the 1980s, Lewis devoted his time to various community organizing and voter registration efforts in order to secure the legal Civil Rights victories of the 1960s and continue to advocate for civil rights. In 1987, Lewis was elected to represent Georgia's 5th District in the House of Representatives, where he served as both a legislator but also as Congress’s de facto representative of the Civil Rights Movement - the "conscience of the Congress."

John Lewis, Barack Obama and others on Edmund Pettus Bridge

John Lewis with President Obama and others at the 50th Anniversary of the Selma March (NAID 157649500)

John Lewis appears in Federal government records beginning in the 1960s through the 2000s and range from media coverage, and his work as a politician. Most notably, Lewis appears in photographs of the “Bloody Sunday” Selma March, wherein he was beaten by police officers. In addition, Lewis appears in records during the 1990s and 2000s in various memorials and tributes to the Civil Rights Movement.


Search the Catalog for Records relating to Congressman John Lewis


Selected Photographs from the National Archives

Leaders of the March on Washington in front of Lincoln memorial

Leaders of the March on Washington, 8/28/1963 (NAID 542056)

JFK meeting with March on Washington leaders

John F. Kennedy meets with leaders of the March on Washington, 8/28/1963 (NAID 194276)

John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Andrew Young and Amelia Boynton Praying before Bloody Sunday

John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Andrew Young and Amelia Boynton Praying before Bloody Sunday (NAID 16898979)

John Lewis being greeted in Kenya

Rep. John Lewis greeted by Brig. Gen. Paul A. Fratarangelo in Kenya during Operation Provide Relief, 1992 (NAID 6481335)

John Lewis kneeling down to speak with a Somali child

Rep. John Lewis talking with a Somali child during Operation Restore Hope, 1993 (NAID 6508426)

John Lewis and Barack Obama embracing

President Barack Obama embracing Rep. John Lewis, 3/7/2015 (NAID 157649496)



John Lewis Oral History Interview for John F. Kennedy Library


Blogs from Rediscovering Black History on John Lewis


Blogs from Pieces of History on John Lewis


Public Opinion in the JFK Library Archives: Civil Rights Protests and the 1963 March on Washington