The Wall Street Journal issued a correction on Monday… for an article from 1963. The article in question misquoted John Lewis from his speech at the civil rights movement’s March on Washington.
The Journal appeared to have relied on an early draft of Lewis’ speech in the article which was published on Aug. 29, 1963, rather than what he delivered on Aug. 28, 1963. At the time, Lewis was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
In the original article, the Journal incorrectly quoted Lewis saying, “All of us must get in the revolution. Get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village and every hamlet of this nation until true freedom comes, until the revolution is complete. In the Delta of Mississippi, in southwest Georgia, in Alabama, Harlem, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and all over this nation. The black masses are on the march.”
But in his speech, Lewis had actually said “I appeal to all of you to get in this great revolution that is sweeping this nation. Get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village and hamlet of this nation until true freedom comes, until the revolution of 1776 is complete. We must get in this revolution and complete the revolution. For in the Delta of Mississippi, in Southwest Georgia, in the Black Belt of Alabama, in Harlem, in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and all over this nation the black masses are on a march for jobs and freedom.”
The original article also quoted Lewis incorrectly, saying “We won’t stop now. All of the forces of Eastland, Barnett, Wallace and Thurmond won’t stop this revolution. The time will come when we will not confine our marching to Washington. We will march through the South, through the heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own scorched earth policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground — nonviolently. We shall fragment the South into a thousand pieces and put them back together in the image of democracy. We will make the action of the past few months look petty. And I say to you, wake up America!”
The correction issued by the Journal reads, “They’re talking about slow down and stop. We will not stop. All of the forces of Eastland, Barnett, Wallace, and Thurmond will not stop this revolution. If we do not get meaningful legislation out of this Congress, the time will come when we will not confine our march into Washington. We will march through the South, through the streets of Jackson, through the streets of Danville, through the streets of Cambridge, through the streets of Birmingham. But we will march with the spirit of love and with the spirit of dignity that we have shown here today.”
“By the forces of our demands, our determination and our numbers, we shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces, put them together in the image of God and Democracy,” Lewis continued. “We must say wake up, America, wake up!”
Not only did the article misquote Lewis, but the Journal also misquoted the president of the auto workers union, Walter Reuther. While the original article correctly explained the premise of Reuther’s speech, the exact words should not have been in quotation marks as he did not use the same language.
Lewis died in 2020, after an extensive career in politics, and is remembered as a crucial member of the civil-rights movement.