Congressman John Lewis, who was one of the key figures during the Civil Rights Movement, will deliver the Bowie State University Commencement speech on Monday, May 23 at 10 a.m. at the Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland, the school announced in late April. Lewis will likely speak on how, as a student at Fisk University, he volunteered to be a part of the Freedom Rides beginning in the 60s, an effort to change America, and the importance of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the students they serve.
In fact, Lewis “risked his life by sitting in seats reserved for white patrons, was beaten severely by angry mobs and was arrested by police for challenging Jim Crow segregation in the South,” the statement read. He also played an important role in the organization of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a student-led group of black college students and activists in the movement, and was named chairman. According to New Georgia Encyclopedia, the organization is very different from its early beginnings at a student meeting on the campus of Shaw University, but the students involved in the SNCC helped shaped the nation’s political future.
“Nonviolence is more than a tool or a tactic,” tweeted Lewis. “Nonviolence is a way of life, a way of living.”
“He was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1981 and to Congress in 1986, serving as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since then,” according to the news release. “He is Senior Chief Deputy Whip, a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and Ranking Member of its Subcommittee on Oversight.”
A proud alum of Fisk University, Lewis also graduated from the American Baptist College Theological Seminary in Nashville, Tennessee, one of the newest black colleges in the country. He also has a host of awards from eminent national and international institutions, and was given the Medal of Freedom in 2011 by President Barack Obama.