John Lewis And The 50th Anniversary Of The March On Washington

Civil rights icon and U.S. Rep. John Lewis joins us to talk about the 50 year anniversary of the March on Washington — and race in American today.


Public events don’t get bigger in American history than the 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech.  Fifty years later, that day, that speech, can seem as monumental and rarified as the Lincoln Memorial that loomed over them.

But John Lewis was there.

At the podium, above the crowd.  He is the last living speaker from that epic moment.  A towering figure himself in the Civil Rights movement, with a gritty history and a grand, compelling view of what was and what is.

This hour, On Point:  Congressman John Lewis on the March on Washington and race in America now.

– Tom Ashbrook


Congressman John Lewis, Democratic representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district. He was major leader in the Civil Right movement. Last living original speaker from the March on Washington in 1963. Co-author of the graphic memoir, “March.”

Ailey Pope, graduate student in theology at Southern Methodirst University in Dallas, Texas.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Washington Post: In the graphic novel ‘March,’ Rep. John Lewis renders a powerful civil rights memoir — “The congressman is scheduled to attend the anniversary ceremonies as the march’s sole surviving featured speaker. Which is why this graphic novel should be embraced as a gift to history; ‘March’ digs in with the compelling perspective of someone who lived it — who could see eventual victory even through the beatings and the jailhouse bars.”

The Huffington Post: March on Washington: John Lewis’ Speech – Then and Now — “Then, a passionate 23-year-old chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), John Lewis, was already a seasoned civil rights activist — with fractures and scars as evidence — and caused controversy when an advance copy of his speech was circulated. Denouncement from the Kennedy administration for its ‘militant’ tone resulted in two versions of Lewis’s speech: the original one he proposed to give; and, the other, the one he actually delivered.”

USA Today: Marching on Washington is an American tradition — “In an era when many indices of democratic activity, have waned, marching on Washington has waxed. Demonstrations have increased in each of the past three years, according to the U.S. Park Police. The National Park Service gets so many applications for political events on the Mall that it logs them on a giant wall calendar; it issues about 1,600 such permits a year, an average of about four a day.”

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