February 14, 2015 Selma, AL: Congressman John Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge February 14, 2015. On March 7, 1965 Hosea Williams and John Lewis led 600 civil rights activists across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a march for voting rights. Lewis had no idea the level of violence that awaited the group on the other side of the bridge. In what would become known around the country as as Bloody Sunday, state troopers and sheriff deputies used tear gas and clubs to break up the march. Leaving Lewis with a skull fracture and sending more than 50 others to the local hospital for treatment. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Photo: United States Postal Service

In December 2022, the United States Postal Service decided to honor the late Congressman John Lewis by featuring him on a commemorative stamp. The stamp was finally unveiled on June 21s this year in an event attended by several prominent personalities

This move by the USPS further cements the legacy of his civil rights icon who dedicated his life for freedom and justice. Let’s further explore the life and legacy of this human rights giant and progressive politician.

The Stamp  

John Lewis was himself an avid stamp collector and purchased several commemorative stamps on the very first day they were issued. The picture of Lewis on the stamp was taken by Marc Grob on Aug. 26, 2013, for the Time Magazine. On the top left corner appear “USA” and “Forever” while Lewis’s name appears at the bottom.

The Beginnings for Lewis

John Lewis grew up in a poor household, as most of his family members were farmers. He had little regularly suffered racial discrimination like others, which had a lasting impact on his psyche. 

Lewis Martin Luther King for the first on radio and was deeply moved by him. His first encounter with Rosa Park occurred in 1917, with whom worked closely while serving as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Lewis was ordained as a Baptist minister after graduating from American Baptist Seminary in Tennessee. Lewis continued his education and earned a bachelor’s in religion & philosophy from Fisk University, too. 

John Lewis as an Activist

Lewis used to organize sit-ins at segregated lunch encounters during his student years. He was part of the Nashville Student Movement, which desegregated lunch counters. Lewis was arrested multiple times due to his activism, but stayed loyal to his philosophy of nonviolence inspired by Gandhi and Martin Luther King. 

Despite the challenges, Lewis never budged on his ideals and participated in the Freedom Rides of 1961. The Supreme Court had called the segregated bus facilities illegal in the South and the Freedom Riders wanted to ensure that was the case on the ground. However, Lewis and his fellows were beaten and arrested due to their protests.

He was one of the Big Six leaders of civil rights including Martin Luther King, James Farmer, Roy Wilkins, etc. Lewis became chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1963, which planned the March on Washington for voting rights and other issues.

However, there was still considerable opposition to Black voting rights in the South. It resulted in a famous March from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, headed by Lewis and his fellows. 

The protestors were attacked by state troopers after crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which fractured Lewis’s skull. The brutal events were called Bloody Sunday after they were circulated throughout the country to raise awareness. 

Lewis’s Political Life & Legacy

Lewis was selected to Congress in 1986, representing Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District, which comprises entire cities of Atlanta and Georgia. He served in several important roles, such as the Senior Chief Deputy Whip for Democrats during his tenure. Moreover, Lewis advocated for progressive issues throughout his political career, such as gun control, healthcare reforms, etc. 

Beyond his tenure as a politician, John Lewis continued to be an influential advocate for civil rights. The decision to issue his US stamp serves as a reminder of his profound impact on the civil rights movement. It will remind the future generations of Americans about the enduring legacy of a true human rights icon. 

I Purchased some Stamps from the Post office and they Look amazing.

Anthony Tilghman

Anthony Tilghman, is an 3x Award-winning Photojournalist, Education advocate, Mentor, and Published Author with years of experience in media, photography, marketing and branding. He is the Winner of the...