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This Day in Georgia History

February 21, 1940

John Lewis Born

To hear an oral history from John Lewis, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Civil rights advocate and politician John Lewis was born in Troy, Alabama. Lewis was involved in the civil rights movement, participating in the 1961 freedom rides and the march on Washington in 1963. He helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was its president from 1963-1966. Lewis was among the the group of over 500 marchers who were attacked on a bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965, which helped lead to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. After moving to Georgia, Lewis stayed active in the Southern Regional Council’s voter education drives. He also directed the Voter Education Project, which led to the registration of four million African-Americans. President Carter appointed Lewis to head the federal volunteer agency ACTION in 1977. Lewis’ political career began in 1981, when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. He served there until 1986, resigning to run for Congress. In November 1986, Lewis was elected to represent Georgia’s 5th congressional district – a position he still holds. Currently, Lewis is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Democratic Steering Committee, the Congressional Urban Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Caucus on Anti-Semitism. He also serves as Chief Deputy Democratic Whip.