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NAACP Celebrates and Commemorates the Life and Struggles of John Lewis

WHEREAS, John Robert Lewis, who was sometimes called the "Boy from Troy" was born on February 21, 1940 near Troy, Alabama; Congressman John Lewis died in Atlanta, Georgia at the age of 80 on July 17, 2020; and

WHEREAS, John Lewis' parents were sharecroppers outside of Troy, and he grew up spending Sundays with a great-grandfather who was born into slavery. He lived in the realities of Jim Crow-era segregation, hearing about the lynchings of Black men and women that were still a commonplace in the region; and

WHEREAS, he was preaching to the family chickens by the age of five, and grew into an ordained minister; and

WHEREAS, John Lewis dedicated his existence – often risking his very life – in support of ensuring that every American could register, vote and be assured their vote was counted; and

WHEREAS, in 1961, John Lewis became one of the thirteen original "Freedom Riders"; and

WHEREAS, from 1963 until 1966, John Lewis served as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), of which he was a founding member; and

WHEREAS, during his long career as an activist, Lewis was arrested forty-five times and beaten repeatedly by the police and by white supremacists, most famously in Selma, on March 7, 1965 — Bloody Sunday — when he helped lead six hundred people marching for voting rights. After they had peacefully crossed the Edmond Pettus Bridge, in Selma, Alabama troopers attacked, using tear gas, clubs, and bullwhips. Within moments of their charge, Lewis lay unconscious, his skull fractured. He later said, "I thought I was going to die"; and

WHEREAS, at age 23 John Lewis was the youngest of the "big six" (along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Whitney Young, and A. Phillip Randolph) leaders of the historic March on Washington; and

WHEREAS, John Lewis was first elected to Congress in 1986, representing Georgia's 5th Congressional district, which is based primarily in Atlanta (Fulton County) and parts of DeKalb and Clayton counties. Congressman Lewis was reelected 16 times, dropping below 70 percent of the vote in the general election only once, and was unopposed six times; and

WHEREAS, on June 22, 2016, Congressman Lewis led a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives demanding then-House Speaker Paul Ryan allow a vote on gun safety legislation in the aftermath of the Pulse night-club shooting in Orlando, FL. Although they were unsuccessful that year, they did shut down the business of the House for almost 26 hours, and gun safety legislation was one of the first measures considered by the 116th Congress in 2018; and

WHEREAS, throughout his long career in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Lewis became known as the "Conscience of the Congress;" and

WHEREAS, John Lewis was also a prolific author, writing books including "Walking With the Wind" (1998); "Across That Bridge" (2012); "Civil Right and the Promise of Equality" (2015); Run (2018); and the "March" Trilogy (beginning in 2018); and

WHEREAS, Congressman Lewis earned a number of awards throughout his career, including the Profile In Courage Award by the John F. Kennedy Library in 2001; the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011; the NAACP Spingarn Award in 2013; and in 2019 the NAACP Chairman's Award for the 51st Image Awards; and

WHEREAS, during his 80 years on our earth, John Lewis seemed to get into one scrape of "good trouble" after another; and

WHEREAS, given the importance John Lewis placed on the right of all Americans to cast a free and unfettered ballot and to be certain that their vote counted, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to rename H.R 4, the "Voting Rights Advancement Act" the "John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020." H.R. 4, which was strongly supported by the NAACP, would restore, repair, and strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act. H.R. 4 passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a decisive margin of 228 – 187 on December 6, 2019 but has not yet received Senate consideration.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, in honor of John Lewis' consistent bravery and life-long dedication for the right to vote that every NAACP member and unit contact their U.S. Senators and President Trump and urge the United States Senate to swiftly pass, and for the President to immediately sign into law H.R. 4, the "John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020" and work to eliminated obstacles that prevent every eligible American from casting an unfettered vote and having it count.