Sunday Book Club

Walking with the Wind by John Lewis
7 June 2020
Text Finn Blythe
This article is part of HERO Dailies – Essential culture, curated daily and also part of Sunday Book Club

HERO DAILIES: Essential culture, curated daily
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Very few people can claim to have been as intimately involved in America’s Civil Right movement as John Lewis, the son of an Alabama sharecropper and now a sixth-term United States Congressman. In his memoir, Walking with the Wind, Lewis details the movement’s genesis during the early 1950s, his role as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and various behind-the-scenes insights into key Civil Rights figures. This is what sets Lewis’ book apart from any other on the period: not just the wit and lyricism of his words, but the revelations on infighting, struggles and triumphs that are otherwise omitted from most accounts. 

Lewis’ book reveals the day-to-day human struggles of the movement as much as the vicious racism encountered on a daily basis. Having been arrested more than forty times and severely beaten on several occasions, Lewis was one of the youngest civil rights leaders (he left the Alabama cotton farm to join the movement when he was still a teenager) and one of the most respected.

As a believer in nonviolence, who borrowed many of his protest techniques from Ghandi, Lewis was instrumental in tackling segregation in Nashville, and led the famous student sit-in protests of the 1960s. He was at the Selma marches too, Bloody Sunday and the Freedom Rides – think of the biggest battlegrounds of the Civil Rights movement and Lewis was likely in the front line. As the late Edward M. Kennedy said of Lewis, “John tells it like it was…Lewis spent most of his life walking against the wind of the times, but he was surely walking with the wind of history.”

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