Civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis gives lecture in Nashville, receives award

Rep. John Lewis (Courtesy: Erika Chambers)
Rep. John Lewis (Courtesy: Erika Chambers)

Photo Credit: Erika Chambers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Georgia Congressman John Lewis visited Nashville on Saturday, where he played a vital role in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

A crowd of more than 1,200 gathered at Martin Luther King Junior Magnet High School to listen to the congressman speak and watch him receive the Nashville Public Library Literary Award.

“I feel more than lucky. I feel honored and blessed to be standing here seeing each and every one of you. Martin Luther King Jr. would be very, very proud of this audience. You look like the makings of a beloved community,” Rep. Lewis stated.

During his visit, he discussed his bestselling graphic novel “March,” which is a trilogy detailing his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

He was also surprised with an important piece of memorabilia from his fight for civil rights. Nashville Mayor Megan Barry presented him with his early 1960s mugshots from his arrest during the city’s lunch counter sit-ins.

“Congressman Lewis learned a lot from Nashville, but I think Nashville learned even more from him,” Mayor Barry said. “He is an American hero, a model of nonviolent protest whose moral courage and devotion to his ideals made our city a better place. And he tells that story beautifully in ‘March,’ which I encourage all Nashvillians to read.”

Rep. Lewis’ ties to Nashville

Rep. Lewis’ connection to Nashville dates back to 1957 when he began studying at American Baptist Theological Seminary. He and fellow students led lunch counter sit-ins and movie theater stand-ins.

He participated in the Freedom Rides in the South and was badly beaten by state troopers while marching in Selma, Alabama. He was arrested dozens of times.

He said protesters of President-elect Donald Trump are justified because of what he said while campaigning. The Congressman urged them to speak truth to power through love and nonviolence, and not be bitter or angry.

*The Associated Press contributed to this story.