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Civil Rights Hero John Lewis To Deliver NC Central Commencement Speech

DURHAM, NC - U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a giant of the civil rights movement, will deliver the undergraduate commencement address at North Carolina Central University on Saturday, May 14. He also will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree by NCCU Chancellor Charlie Nelms during the graduation ceremony, which starts at 8 a.m. in O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium. NCCU expects to confer about 590 degrees at the undergraduate ceremony.

This year for the first time, NCCU is holding a separate ceremony to award degrees to master’s and professional graduates. That commencement is scheduled for 3 p.m. on May 13 at the McDougald – McLendon Gymnasium. As previously announced, the speaker will be Dr. Norman Anderson, CEO of the American Psychological Association and an NCCU alumnus.

Lewis has been described as “one of the most courageous persons the civil rights movement ever produced” and has dedicated his life to protecting human rights and securing civil liberties. As a student at Fisk University, he organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tenn. In 1961, he participated in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Despite being beaten by angry mobs and arrested by police, Lewis continued to defy and fight against the injustice of Jim Crow legislation.

In 1963, he was named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the organization that shaped student activism in the civil rights movement, including voter registration drives and community action programs. Though just 23 years old, he was considered one of the “Big Six” leaders of the movement, along with Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer and Roy Wilkins. He was an organizer and speaker at the historic March on Washington in August of 1963.

In 1965, Lewis led 600 peaceful protesters across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state. Their intention was to march from Selma to Montgomery, the capital. At the far end of the bridge, they were met by nearly 200 Alabama state troopers, who brutally attacked the protesters, and one man, the Rev. James J. Reeb, was killed. The confrontation, which became known as “Bloody Sunday,” received worldwide news coverage and is widely credited with spurring President Lyndon B. Johnson to push for passage of the Voting Rights Bill, which became law later that year.

Born the son of sharecroppers in rural Alabama in 1940, Lewis attended segregated schools and was inspired to become active in the civil rights movement by the Montgomery bus boycott and radio broadcasts by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lewis graduated from American Baptist Theological Seminary in Nashville and earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy at Fisk University.

Lewis now represents Georgia’s 5th Congressional District. A Democrat, he was first elected to his seat in 1986, and he has since risen to top leadership positions. He was a leading opponent of the Iraq War. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls him the “conscience of the U.S. Congress.” His acclaimed memoir of the civil rights movement, “Walking with the Wind,” was published in 1998.
 

In 2010, Lewis was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama. At the ceremony, Obama said, “Generations from now, when parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind — an American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time, whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now.”
After receiving the Medal of Freedom, Lewis told a national radio interviewer, "It's hard to believe that in a short time, that we have come so far as a nation and as a people. When you look back, the year that Barack Obama was born 50 years ago, black people and white people in the American South couldn't sit together on a bus or on a train or in a waiting room. And we changed that."

 


STORY TAGS: John Lewis , North Carolina Central University , commencement Black News, African American News, Minority News, Civil Rights News, Discrimination, Racism, Racial Equality, Bias, Equality, Afro American News



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