2001 Profile in Courage Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Congressman John Lewis with Caroline Kennedy, Senator Edward M. kennedy, and Victoria Reggie Kennedy.

Background

Congressman John Lewis was honored with an unprecedented Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement for his extraordinary courage, leadership and commitment to civil rights. Congressman Lewis’ efforts promoting civil rights started at an early age. As a student he organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, and was later beaten by angry mobs for his participation in the Freedom Rides that challenged segregation at bus terminals across the south. By the age of 23, he was Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a student group for civil rights. Under Lewis’ leadership, the SNCC organized one of the most dramatic nonviolent protests of the Movement. Along with fellow activist Hosea Williams, Lewis led a 600-strong demonstration that exploded into a confrontation when Alabama State Troopers attacked marchers. Known as “Bloody Sunday,” that fateful march and the subsequent march between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As a member of the U.S. Congress representing Georgia’s fifth congressional district, John Lewis continues to dedicate his life to protecting human rights.