2020 has really been a tough year when it comes to losing some of the world’s largest icons and legends. On Friday, July 17, the world lost two civil rights icons, John Robert Lewis and Rev. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian.
John Lewis died at the age of 80 after a battle with cancer. Rev. CT Vivian died at age 95 of natural causes. They both died a day before the late Nelson Mandella’s birthday.
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These men were all giants in the civil rights movement and renowned champions of racial equality. They worked alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr to fight racial injustice in the 1960s.
John Lewis 1940-2020
John Lewis was a civil rights movement icon as well as a Georgie congressman. He was a political force known nationwide.
The world has lost a legend; the civil rights movement has lost an icon, the city of Atlanta has lost one of its most fearless leaders, and the Congressional Black Caucus has lost our longest serving member,” the Congressional Black Caucus said. ” … John Lewis was known as the conscience of our caucus.
His passion for equal rights was prevalent. He also served as the US representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district for more than three decades.
“Good trouble” is what Lewis would say to confront injustices without violence. His passion for equal rights was supported by actions that included arrest during protests against racial and social injustice.
Lewis was a colleague of Martin Luther King Jr. He participated in lunch counter sit-ins, joined the Freedom Riders with bus segregation when he was 23-years-old, and he was the keynote speaker at the 1963 March on Washington.
We do not want our freedom gradually; we want to be free now. — John Lewis.
Just at the age of 25, he helped lead a march for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Images from “Bloody Sunday” gained support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
In 2011, Lewis received the Medal of Freedom which was placed around his neck by America’s first Black President Barack Obama. Lewis described Obama’s 2009 inauguration as an “out-of-body” experience, so I know this moment meant everything to him.
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Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way. John Lewis did. And thanks to him, we now all have our marching orders—to keep believing in the possibility of remaking this country we love until it lives up to its full promise.
Lewis was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in December 2019, and he vowed to fight it.
I have been in some kind of fight — for freedom, equality, basic human rights — for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now, he said in a statement.
You fought the good fight John, may your soul rest in power. Thank you for everything you have done for the community.
Celebrities honoring John Lewis on Social Media
Cordy Tindell Vivian 1924-2020
A lot like Lewis C.T. Vivan was a major force in the civil rights movement also. He worked with Martin Luther King Jr and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the struggle for racial equality.
He was also apart of the Freedom Riders, who were activists that rode through southern states to make sure bus terminals and other public facilities were not segregated.
In 1947, he had his first nonviolent protest at a lunch counter sit-in in Peoria, Illinois. Not all of his protests were nonviolent, some ended in violence against him.
He also led a group of people to register to vote in Selma, Alabama despite the sheriff’s trying to block them.
We will register to vote because as citizens of the United States we have the right to do it, he told the sheriff.
Vivian was beaten by the sheriff in front of rolling cameras until blood was dripping from his chin. The images from the beating helped gather more support for change.
Vivian was also a giant in education. He created a college readiness program designed to help care for children that were kicked out of school for protesting racism.
The US Department of Education used his program as a guide to creating Upward Bound, which was designed to improve high school and college graduation rates for students in underserved communities.
Vivian was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, presented by former President Barack Obama.
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Today, we’ve lost a founder of modern America, a pioneer who shrunk the gap between reality and our constitutional ideals of equality and freedom. C.T. Vivian was one of Dr. King’s closest advisors, a field general in his movement for civil rights and justice. “Martin taught us that it’s in the action that we find out who we really are,” Reverend Vivian once said. And he was always one of the first in the action – a Freedom Rider, a marcher in Selma, beaten, jailed, almost killed, absorbing blows in hopes that fewer of us would have to. He waged nonviolent campaigns for integration across the south, and campaigns for economic justice throughout the north, and never let up, knowing that even after the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act that he helped win, our long journey to equality was nowhere near finished. As Rosa Parks once said of Reverend Vivian, “Even after things had supposedly been taken care of and we had our rights, he was still out there.” I admired him from before I became a senator and got to know him as a source of wisdom, advice, and strength on my first presidential campaign. His friendship, encouraging words, and ever-present smile were a great source of inspiration and comfort, and personally, I will miss him greatly. I’m only here thanks to C.T. Vivian and all the heroes in that Civil Rights Generation. Because of them, the idea of a just, fair, inclusive, and generous America came closer into focus. The trail they blazed gave today’s generation of activists and marchers a roadmap to tag in and finish the journey. And I have to imagine that seeing the largest protest movement in history unfold over his final months gave the Reverend a final dose of hope before his long and well-deserved rest.
C.T. Vivan thank you for your courage throughout the years. Thank you for everything you have done for the community. May you rest in power!