John Lewis was a share-cropper’s son, born in 1940 in a part of rural Alabama that was so rigidly segregated that he had seen only two white people when he reached his sixth birthday.
He wanted to be a preacher and he practiced his sermons by preaching to the family chickens. As he later joked: “When I looked back, some of those chickens would bow their heads, some of those chickens would shake their heads, they never quite said Amen, but I’m convinced that some of those chickens in the 40’s and 50’s tended to listen to me much better than some of my colleagues in the Congress.”
It was not what John Lewis said but what he did that changed America. An activist from his teen years when he heard Martin Luther King on the radio, he was arrested more than 40 times, beaten and severely injured as he