On April 18th, NAACP Board of Directors Chairman Julian Bond announced that U.S. Rep. John Lewis would be presented with the 87th NAACP Spingarn Award during the 93rd Annual NAACP Convention in Houston on July 11. The Spingarn Medal is the NAACP's highest honor for achievement.
Bond said: " John Lewis is a true American hero — his bravery and solid commitment to justice are legendary."
Kweisi Mfume, NAACP President & CEO, said: "John Lewis, whom I had the pleasure and honor to serve with during my years in congress, will go down in history as one of America's true champions of freedom. Lewis is a fitting choice for the NAACP's highest honor because he has devoted his life to fighting for dignity and justice for all people."
During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, Lewis was recognized as a leader in the fight for freedom. In 1961, he participated in the legendary Freedom Rides across the South. In 1965, he helped lead more than 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. where state troopers attacked the group during a confrontation that became known as "Bloody Sunday." It was that march and one other that eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Lewis also played a pivotal role in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the height of the Movement from 1963 to 1966. Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries during that time, he remained committed to righting wrongs and to the philosophy of nonviolence.
Lewis is currently serving his eighth term in office as a congressman for Georgia's 5th Congressional District. In the 107th Congress, Lewis is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Democratic Steering Committee, and the Congressional Black Caucus.
He is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize and the John F. Kennedy "Profile in Courage Award" for lifetime achievement.
The late NAACP Chairman Joel E. Spingarn instituted the Spingarn Award in 1914. The medal was designed to highlight distinguished merit and achievement among African Americans.
Previous Spingarn winners include Vernon E. Jordon, Jr., Oprah Winfrey, Earl G. Graves, Sr., former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., William H. Cosby, Jr., Rosa Parks, Leontyne Price, Maya Angelou, General Colin Powell, Edward "Duke" Ellington, Carl T. Rowan, Alex Haley, Jacob Lawrence, Henry "Hank" Aaron, and Myrlie Evers-Williams, Chairman Emeritus, the NAACP Board of Directors.
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