For more than 50 years, Representative John Lewis of Georgia’s 5th Congressional District has served as an icon for civil rights and progressive social movements in this country. From his efforts during the 1963 March on Washington, his involvement in the Selma marches and his 31 years as a United States congressman, Lewis has embodied, in word and deed, all that it means to be an American hero.
In tribute to his service and his influence, Humanity in Action and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights recently conducted the John Lewis Fellowship Program.
The John Lewis Fellowship Program hosted a four-week course for a group of 26 students from the United States and seven European countries. These students participated in a series of film screenings, tours and art exhibits. The group learned firsthand about Atlanta’s civil rights legacy by individuals who wrote its history: Lewis, Dr. Bernice King, civil rights attorney Mawuli Davis, and others. Students were also afforded the opportunity to visit landmark institutions, such as the Leesburg Stockade, the Civil Rights Institute in Albany, Ga. and the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Ala.
The fellows were also directly involved in work that supported the movement’s social agenda. The group worked with the International Human Trafficking Institute, and teamed up with the New Georgia Project to gain real-world experience in a voter engagement campaign.
Tanya Washington, program director of the John Lewis Fellowship, sees the program as an integral component to not only student development, but also social development. “Bridging the connection between history and current realities has [always] been important,” she said. “It is more important than ever that the efforts of young people are informed by the lessons of past resistance, engagement and activism in advancing and protecting human and civil rights.”
Humanity in Action is a non-profit, international educational organization, that strives to inspire and connect a global network of students, young professionals and established leaders committed to promoting human rights, diversity and active citizenship.
The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a cultural attraction that connects the American Civil Rights Movement to today’s struggle for Global Human Rights.