Ahead of Rep. John Lewis’ funeral Thursday, the New York Times published a posthumous op-ed in which the late civil rights leader urges readers to continue the fight for justice and “let freedom ring.”
“While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me,” he wrote. “You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.”
Lewis referenced the Black Lives Matter movement and reflected on growing up in a segregated society, which led him to activism. He then pivoted to calling on readers to continue carrying on that legacy.
“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring,” he wrote.
Lewis will be honored at one final funeral service before he is laid to rest at the South-View Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday.
The service, which will take place at the Ebenezer Baptist Church — the historic church once led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — is not open to the public due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, but it will be live-streamed on C-SPAN at 8 a.m. PT/11 a.m. ET and via PBS News in the video above beginning at 7:30 a.m. PT/10:30 a.m. ET.
Lewis died earlier this month at the age of 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Along with Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young, Lewis was a member of the “Big Six” who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington. He was also an integral figure in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery protests, where he led a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma that was met by immense violence from state troopers on a day now known as “Bloody Sunday.” The incident, in which a trooper cracked Lewis’ skull with a club and many others protesters were subjected to horrific violence, helped raise awareness and galvanize support for the Voting Rights Act that was passed into law later that year. And after being elected to Congress in 1986, Lewis’ legacy of activism — which he continued up until his death — garnered him the nickname of “the conscience of Congress.”