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tv   All In With Chris Hayes  MSNBC  July 25, 2020 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT

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twice. sunday i'm going to meet in a safe and socially distanced way with a handful of pennsylvania residents to see what's top of mind for them and how they plan to vote in november. i hope you'll join us sunday morning and tomorrow morning as always for "velshi" starting at 8:00 a.m. eastern. in my younger days i got arrested and went to jail 40 times and since been in congress another five times, and i may get arrested and go to jail again. >> an icon of the civil rights movement. >> they found the power of the human spirit in john lewis. and he came to symbolize the student movement. >> he believed that he could help a country find its soul. >> he risked everything to fight for what's right. >> i did not think john would survive. >> he likes to stir things up.
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he likes a little drama. >> let us vote. >> john lewis is not about popularity. he's about purpose. >> never give up. never give in. >> his commitment through the years paved the way for a new generation. >> barack obama does not become president of the united states without a john lewis. >> john lewis led them on a mission to change america. >> our country will never, ever be the same because of what happened on this period. >> what do we do? >> when activists turned out to protest the trump administration's separation of migrant children from their parents in june 2018 congressman john lewis was there.
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>> now, i'm sick and tired -- sick and tired of what has happen today our children, to our babies being taken from their mothers, from their fathers, separated. that's painful. it's a violation of human rights. and none of us who live on this little piece of real estate we call america can be happy or satisfied. we have to do something. so we are prepared to take some action here and now. let's do it. >> you feel like you've been placed for a reason. you have to disturb the order of things. >> one expression he uses i love he says we have to make good trouble. >> lewis first came up with the phrase as a child in pike county, alabama. >> i didn't like segregation and racial discrimination. i didn't like the signs that said white waiting, colored
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waiting, white men, colored men. so i would come home and ask my mother, my father, my grandparents why, and they would say that's the way it is, boy. don't get in the way. don't get in trouble. >> born to sharecroppers in 1940 john robert lewis was one of ten siblings growing up in the fields of cotton country. as a teenager he was inspired by the montgomery bus boycott and the sermons of dr. martin luther king, jr. on the radio. >> as long as you sit in the back you have a false sense of inferiority, and so long as you let the white man is sit in the front and push you down he has a false sense of superiority. >> at the age of 16 lewis challenged segregation loss in his own town. >> we went down to the public library in the little town of troy, alabama, trying to get library cards, trying to check out some books. and we were told by the
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librarian the library was for whites only and not for coloreds, and that set me on a path. >> lewis believed that path would lead him to become a preacher like king. he received a works study scholarship to a seminary in nashville and arrived in 1957. >> john has always had a genuine smile, even a kind of boyishness about him that has made him charming. >> he was a person who was easy to talk to and was always interested in social issues. >> lewis want today join the students beginning to integrate schools across the south. his target? all white troy state university, just 10 miles from his home in alabama. he wrote to dr. king for help. king's deputies sent him a bus ticket to visit montgomery in the spring of 1958 when he was just 18 years old. >> and dr. king said are you the
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boy from troy? are you john lewis, and i said dr. king, i'm john robert lewis. i gave him my whole name, but he still called me the boy from troy. >> dr. king told the boy from troy he would need his parents permission to take on troy state, but they were afraid of the consequences and refused. as lewis returned to nashville he was determined to do something. and then he met the second role model who would change his life. >> john lawson came to nashville and enrolled as a student at vanderbilt university divinity school. >> he taught us the philosophy in the discipline of nonviolence and he kept saying respect dignity and the worth of every human being. even if someone beats you, throws you in jail look them in the eye and respect them. >> lawson's group began sit-ins
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at lunch counters in downtown nashville in early 1960. lewis and other students filled the counters, tried to order food and took whatever abuse was hurled at them. when a 20-year-old lewis was arrested the first time in february 1960 his parents were shocked. >> a lot of people of color at that time were afraid of what was going to happen. he could die, they could lose the land or any number of terrible consequences. >> but lewis and the other students continued their sit-ins. and after months of protests the politicians and business leaders in nashville agreed to desegregate lunch counters in may 1960. >> we all applauded, and here was the situation that turned outright. >> with that success john lewis was even more inspired to take on jim crow laws that segregated people by race and denied basic right tuesday african-americans. >> there were many meetings when
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he would come into the meeting with bandages on his head. he had been in demonstrations and had been beaten. he was determined, though. he never let that stop him. i think he would have had to literally killed him to stop him. >> coming up -- >> john lewis would put himself on the line without question. t. they get that no two people are alike and customize your car insurance so you only pay for what you need. almost done. what do you think? i don't see it. only pay for what you need. ♪ liberty. liberty. liberty. liberty. ♪
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i could no longer be satisfied or go along with an evil system. >> reporter: fresh from the student sit-ins in nashville, john lewis found a new way to contribute to the civil rights movement in 1961. a group called the congress of racial equality, or c.o.r.e., put out a call for black and white volunteers to ride buses
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headed into the jim crow south. traveling together would surely put them all in danger. >> they both applied to go on the original freedom rides. john was accepted because he was 21. i asked my father if i could go. he said, "do you think i'm going to sign your death warrant?" >> reporter: despite that warning lewis went ahead as one of the original group of 13 freedom riders. they set out from washington, d.c., in may 1961 and were soon met by violence. lewis and another man were viciously beaten in rock hill, south carolina. a few days later, a group of riders was attacked in birmingham. another bus was fire-bombed in anniston, alabama. c.o.r.e. canceled the freedom rides. they were just too dangerous. lewis and the other nashville students disagreed with the decision.
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>> it was right at the heart of what they had been talking about in all their workshops -- we can't let violence stop the movement. we've got to be willing to make whatever sacrifice it takes. >> reporter: the nashville student group decided to continue the freedom rides themselves. if the adults refused to ride, the students still would. >> i remember several conversations with the department of justice, and they told me, i just didn't understand that somebody would get killed. and i said, i understand, and all of them understand as well. several of the students who were about to get on the bus gave me sealed envelopes that i was to mail in the event of their death. >> they knew how dangerous it was, but they were not afraid. they came prepared to face down the dangers with the power of their souls. >> reporter: despite the violence, john lewis got back on a bus to alabama as one of the
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new group of student freedom riders. >> they're supposed to have had protection, federal protection. but when we got to montgomery, they disappeared, and we were left in the hands of a mob. i mean, it was terrible. that's when john lewis was beaten and jim zwerg was beaten. >> reporter: the riders kept going, this time with federal guards. eventually, they made it to the dark heart of the south -- jackson, mississippi. there, lewis and the others were arrested for breach of the peace and sent to mississippi's infamous parchman prison. >> it really was like going back into the, you know, antebellum plantation. it was a plantation prison. it was a rough experience. >> reporter: more students continued to join the freedom rides, and by the end of the summer, hundreds of them filled parchman and other mississippi jails.
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>> it bonded them. they said, we went in there 100 little movements on campuses and we came out one big movement and we knew each other. >> the people should be expected to get beaten. they should expect to spend in jail, and it may go beyond the summer when they're in jail. >> reporter: that national movement was called the student nonviolent coordinating committee, or sncc. when the chairman resigned in the summer of 1963, the organization turned to john lewis. with his country accent and lack of formal education, some saw him as an unlikely choice. >> they needed a chairman who had fought, who had bled, who had been to jail, who had suffered through every indignity that they were then asking the people in the field to suffer through. >> they found the power of the human spirit in john lewis, and he came to symbolize the student movement. >> reporter: almost immediately, lewis was tapped to represent sncc at the march on washington. at 23, he would be the youngest
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speaker at the event. but when people in the kennedy administration and more senior civil rights leaders read his planned speech, they said it was too militant. >> at the end of the speech, i said a day may come when we will not confine our march on washington, but we may be forced to march through the south the way sherman did, nonviolently. >> the image of students at sherman scared the bejesus out of people. so you know, they threatened to pull the plug. and catholic cardinals said i'm not going to introduce if they're going to say something like this. >> dr. king and others came to me and said, "john, for the sake of unity, can we make these changes?" and i couldn't have said no to dr. king. and we made the changes. >> let us not forget that we are involved in a sphere of social revolution. >> reporter: even with the
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compromises, john lewis' speech in august 1963 was fierce, though often forgotten in the shadow of dr. king's "dream." >> we don't want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now! [ cheers and applause ] >> reporter: in the years after the march on washington, lewis and sncc concentrated on registering black voters. >> and the idea is that we got more people participating in government and bringing about changes if we got more people registered to vote, so they could practice their fundamental rights. >> reporter: in mississippi, during the summer of 1964, the students tried to register voters with violent repercussions. and in selma, alabama, sncc volunteers set up a voter drive but with few successes. >> the board is not in session this afternoon as you were informed. you came down to make a mockery out of this courthouse, and we're not going to have it. >> reporter: in spring 1965, residents turned to dr. king for
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help. >> we are tired of having registrars refusing to register us and allow us to vote! >> many times, sncc did a lot of work, but when martin luther king came and the media came, it was, you know, described as martin luther king's work. >> there was always this tendency to want to challenge dr. king's leadership. and john didn't share that. john wanted to change the world and he wasn't thinking about credit. >> martin luther king was his hero and his example and model. >> i think they shared a total commitment. there was no moral compromise. they were fearless. >> reporter: when king's group organized a protest march from selma to montgomery in march 1965, sncc refused to join, but john lewis chose to march anyway
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at the front of the line. >> we're marching today to dramatize to the nation that hundreds and thousands of negro citizens of alabama denied the right to vote. >> reporter: his knapsack held an apple and a toothbrush. he was ready to go to jail, as he had so often before. but he was also prepared for worse. >> john just was always available to his death. and i think it was not that he wanted to die, it was at the basis of his leadership was showing a fearlessness that encouraged others. >> reporter: when the marchers crossed the edmund pettus bridge out of town, a line of state troopers confronted them. >> you are ordered to disperse, go home or go to your church. >> reporter: they refused to turn back. the violence was broadcast on national television.
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>> america's conscience was seared by what they saw that day. and i think it was a transformational moment in american history, because i think that's when the american people said, enough's enough. >> reporter: two weeks later, the group set out again, then joined by thousands of americans from all over the country, inspired by the cause. president lyndon johnson used the public outrage to motivate his proposal of a voting rights act in a speech to congress on march 15. >> what happened in selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of america. >> the only time i saw martin luther king shed a tear, and i wasn't with john, but i bet you he cried, too. >> their cause must be our cause, too. >> was when lyndon johnson closed his speech with "we shall
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we will use the energy and the resources of our organization to implement the voting bill. >> reporter: but the violence against marchers at the bridge in selma in 1965 helped convince congress to pass the voting rights act, and it secured john lewis' reputation as an icon of the civil rights movement. but that march also signaled a breach between lewis and his group, the student nonviolent coordinating committee. >> i felt at the time that the organization, and maybe even the movement, was moving in a different direction. >> reporter: 14 months after the selma march, a more militant faction ousted lewis as chairman, and the group soon began calling for very different tactics. >> violence is a part of america's culture.
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it is as american as cherry pie. >> reporter: the new rhetoric went against everything in which lewis believed. >> we had been preaching the philosophy and the discipline of non-violence, preaching a sense of doing what we called the beloved community, that we're one people, that we're one family. >> reporter: after 40 arrests and countless beatings in the name of the civil rights movement, john lewis left the group he helped to create, but he continued his work in community organizing and voter registration. >> just because he had this disagreement with an organization, it didn't mean that he had to abandon the ideals of the movement. >> he recognized the problem in america of racism and denial and unjust treatment, that he wanted to get the problem solved. >> reporter: while working in the south, 27-year-old john lewis was introduced to the woman who would become his wife, lillian miles. >> i said to myself, this young lady is really hip.
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and i started talking with her. >> she read everything about john's background and respected him tremendously. >> she was wonderful, beautiful, charming, and she taught me a great deal. >> reporter: within a year, the couple was married. lewis also began a new work assignment in 1968, traveling for robert kennedy's presidential campaign. >> i got to know robert kennedy when he was attorney general. i admired him and i thought he would be a great president. >> reporter: lewis took over the recruitment of black voters for the campaign in several states. >> it was a big deal for robert kennedy, and it was a big deal for john lewis. it marked his transition to politics. >> reporter: lewis was at a rally with kennedy on the day his idol, dr. martin luther king jr., was shot. >> martin luther king was shot and was killed tonight in
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memphis, tennessee. >> reporter: just two months later, the nation still reeling from king's death, kennedy won the california primary. lewis was in the candidate's hotel suite waiting while he gave his victory speech. >> my thanks to all of you. and now it's on to chicago and let's win there. thank you. >> and next thing, it was announced on television that he had been shot. >> is there a doctor in the house? >> and we saw the scene, bobby laying on the floor. we all just broke down and just cried, really. >> reporter: two assassinations, tragedies for the nation, as well as personal losses for john lewis, helped set his future course. >> to lose two people that are mine in love was almost too much. and later, i just said, some of us must pick up where dr. king
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and robert kennedy left off. so, if it hadn't been for them, i'm not so sure that i would have gotten involved in american politics. >> reporter: lewis plotted his entry into politics as he continued his voter registration work in the 1970s. >> it is no longer the drama in the streets. it is in washington. it is in city hall, the state capitols around the south and around this country. >> reporter: he ran for the fifth congressional district in atlanta in 1977 and lost. he went on to serve on the atlanta city council but continued to eye the fifth district. >> right now, it's the highest possibility for a black elected official that would like to move up. >> reporter: the seat opened up again in 1986, but there was another sncc veteran running, julian bond, who marched alongside lewis, and at the time, served in the georgia state legislature. >> they were inseparable. they had collaborated virtually
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on everything for more than 20 years. >> reporter: after a crowded primary, the vote came down to a runoff between the two friends. >> the race was on. each of these men badly wanted this seat, and they were willing to go all out. >> so, tell julian bond, here i come. >> reporter: the runoff divided not just lewis and bond, but black atlanta and veterans of the civil rights movement who knew them both. >> practically every prominent african-american leader in the metropolitan atlanta area was supporting julian bond. john wasn't phased by it. he was determined to outwork julian. >> he was all over the place. and i think julian kind of thought that he had it made. >> reporter: bond challenged lewis to a series of television and radio debates. >> and the real issue is which of the two of us, john lewis or julian bond, would make the
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better legislator. >> julian is so smart, so gifted, spoke so well, and i think he thought that he would outdebate me. >> john was a man who expressed what he believed. he never put on airs. he never pretended. he never tried to please other people. >> you know anything about me, that i'm not up for sale. my vote cannot be bought. >> reporter: as the debates continued, lewis' team encouraged him to raise an issue from the earlier primary. when another candidate had challenged everyone to take a drug test, bond had refused. >> campaign advisers, myself included, had been urging john to issue that challenge to julian. john had resisted. and then julian made some comment that john had abandoned the voters of the city. >> you know, if it walks like a duck, it acts like a duck, it quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. >> i said, well, mr. bond, i think you're the one doing the
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ducking. >> i challenge mr. bond to take a drug test. >> that's okay, john. that's all right. >> reporter: the challenge rocked bond's campaign. and three days later, john lewis won the runoff by four points. >> and i want to thank those folks, those good people who had the courage, the real courage to change their votes in the runoff and vote for me. thank you very much! [ cheers and applause ] >> the sense of shock and absolute surprise in atlanta the night that john lewis won that seat is unlike anything i have ever seen. i mean, people were stunned. >> reporter: for the two friends, the damage was done. >> it was hurtful to him. i think he was hurt by the way that john presented those issues. >> their friendship was the price they paid. >> there's been a real strain
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put on this relationship between the two of us, but you know, time is a great healer, and i'm sure in time, the wounds will heal. >> later, he became very supportive, and our friendship was mended. but he was a good friend. if i had to do it over again, i would do it. coming up -- >> people died for the right to vote! friends of mine! colleagues of mine!
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we're not on the outside
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now. we're legislators. we're politicians, trying to use government as an instrument, as a tool to bring about change. >> reporter: after a hard-fought campaign, john lewis began his freshman term in congress in january 1987. the 46-year-old was already known for his history in the civil rights movement and wanted to use that influence to become effective in washington. one of his first initiatives was a national museum of african-american history. >> he realized, here is a history that is crucial to understanding who we are as americans, but it's a history that's undervalued, undertaught, and there's not a place to come revel in and understand that history. >> reporter: lewis first introduced his bill in 1988 and then again year after year. >> he's not daunted by long-shot causes. i mean, if he thinks that it's
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right, he's going to stick with it. >> reporter: more than a decade later, lewis gained an unexpected ally, kansas senator sam brownback. >> i was praying at st. joseph's church, and i got this idea that we should have a museum, an african-american museum of history and culture, found that john lewis had tried for a dozen years. and he'd get through one house, but not the other. >> reporter: brownback, one of the more conservative members of the senate, was wary of lewis' history. >> i had a public impression of him, which was pretty fiery. but then when i met with him personally, i found a very thoughtful, enjoyable gentleman that had done a great deal for the country, had a great passion. >> you have people that might not agree on some day-to-day issues, but they find common purpose. >> reporter: the bill to create the museum passed and was signed into law by president george w. bush in 2003, 15 years after
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john lewis first proposed it. it took another 13 years for the building to be finished. the museum opened on the mall in washington in 2016. >> there were some who said it couldn't happen, who said, you can't do it, but we did it. we did it. >> reporter: through the years, lewis established himself as a force in washington. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> reporter: a member of the influential ways and means committee, a deputy whip for the democratic party, and as a leader of the congressional black caucus. >> i'm going to change my vote and i'm going to vote for the ruling. >> reporter: but his personal life remained in atlanta with his wife, lillian. the separation wasn't easy. >> lillian didn't like it and complained a lot about it. and then she finally realized that he was wed to that work. >> reporter: lewis traveled to
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atlanta weekly to see lillian and their son, john miles. >> john miles looked forward to seeing him come home for the weekends. they would do things together as the boys would do sometimes. >> reporter: the couple made the long-distance arrangement work for decades, until lillian's death in 2012. atlanta was vital to john lewis, not just as his home, but as his political base. >> anything we need from washington, he's got enough friends to get for us. >> reporter: lewis built relationships with colleagues across the political spectrum, by leading congressional trips to selma and other sites of the civil rights movement. through the faith and politics institute, he traveled with more than 300 politicians over the years. >> when we were going on to those lunch counters or when we were marching -- >> i think he's one of the few people in congress who could bring people from many different parties together and say, let's spend three days wrestling with the past. only john could do that.
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>> okay. >> reporter: lewis built on those relationships to support his chosen projects. >> he tries to use the influence that he has, the respect that he commands, to advance the causes that he thinks are important and that what i think are really about fairness, justice, and equality. >> reporter: and no cause was more important to him than voting rights. >> i happen to believe that the vote is precious. it's almost sacred. it is the most powerful, nonviolent instrument or tool that we have in a democratic society. >> there is a history there with him in terms of ensuring that the '65 voting rights act becomes law, and then in his later life, protecting the gains that were won during the civil rights movement. >> reporter: many of those gains lewis helped win were wiped out in 2013 when a stunning decision by the supreme court reversed decades of federal protection for voters in the south. >> so, i think what the court did today is stab the voting
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rights act of 1965 in its very heart. >> after what i think is probably one of the worst supreme court decisions over the last 50 years, he sprung into action. >> before the ink was even dry, states began to put into force effort to suppress people's voting rights. >> he had worked towards the passage of that legislation to try to put back in place the structure of the voting rights act. >> we've come too far. we've made too much progress, mr. speaker, and we cannot go back. coming up -- >> he's trying to talk directly to young people. he has written a comic book, for crying out loud. find pants that aren't sweats. find your friends. find your sense of wander. find the world is new, again. at chevy we'd like to take you there. now during the chevy open road sales event, get up to 15% of msrp cash back on select 2020 models.
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people that i love. >> reporter: after more than 20 years in congress, john lewis faced a difficult choice in the fall of 2007. barack obama was running for president, and the election of an african-american to the nation's highest office would be the culmination of lewis' life work. but early on, the front-runner in the primary race was hillary clinton. >> the clintons were very supportive of him. when john had birthday fund-raisers, president clinton would be there. he just would now want to return the favor, you know. i've got to support clintons. they have been with me every step of the way. >> reporter: when georgia democrats chose obama in their primary in february 2008, lewis reconsidered his position. >> as it looked like it was more of a reality about to happen, i think people said, well, you know what, it's time for you to shift and kind of get on board
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this train. you've been on the right side of history for virtually everything else. you need to be on the right side of history for this. >> reporter: the choice was painful for him. but in the end, lewis gave his full support to the obama campaign. >> i love bill clinton. i love hillary clinton. but something is happening in america. something is unbelievable. >> i, barack hussein obama, do solemnly swear. >> barack obama does not become president of the united states without a john lewis. >> reporter: lewis developed a strong bond with president obama. >> i can kind of tell, you know, when president obama is really listening to somebody, and he really listens to john lewis. >> he is known as the conscience of the united states congress, still speaking his mind on issues of justice and equality. >> reporter: despite honors like the 2010 medal of freedom, those who work with lewis say he wears his fame lightly.
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>> in public life, there are a lot of people that seek to get to the front of the room immediately. not john lewis. it's, for me, pretty astounding. >> first thing that strikes you is his humility. he doesn't come off as a sort of grandiose figure. he comes off as a kind, decent soul. >> part of what makes john humble is he knows who he is, and he knows that he has sacrificed for the greater good, so what else does he have to prove? >> reporter: although he still carries his scars from his days in the movement, lewis is still willing to engage with those who hurt him. >> one of the klans member who beat us in rock hill, south carolina, came to this office many years later and said, "mr. lewis, i've been a member of the klan. i'm one of the people that beat you. but i want to apologize. will you forgive me?" his son started crying. he started crying. and i cried with him.
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it is the power, the way of peace, the way of love, the power of the philosophy of nonviolence. [ applause ] >> thank you, brother. good to see you. >> he epitomizes what the nonviolent movement's all about. it's about soul force. it's the force of the human spirit. >> reporter: as a bridge between the civil rights era and a new generation, lewis found a way to share his experiences when he told his young staffers about a comic book from the movement. >> this little comic book, "martin luther king jr. and the montgomery story" sold for 10 cents. and when we were arrested in nashville, tennessee, almost every single one of us had a copy on us. >> i started thinking, why isn't there a john lewis comic book? i had never heard the story of sncc. i had never heard the full depth and breadth of john lewis'
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story. why didn't anybody tell me that i as a young person had so much power? >> he kept saying to me, "congressman, you should write a comic book." and i said, maybe, but they wouldn't give up. and i finally said, "yes, if you do it with me." >> reporter: the first part of their graphic novel called "march" came out in 2013. wearing an outfit just like the one he wore at the bridge in selma, lewis met his new fans at comic-con. the third book won a national book award in 2016. the first time a graphic novel had ever won. >> i remember going down to the public library, trying to get library cards, and we were told that the library was for whites only and not for coloreds. and to come here and receive this award, this honor with these -- it's too much. thank you. >> reporter: in another sign of
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how far he and the nation had come, john lewis celebrated the 50th anniversary of the selma march with an african-american president, retracing those fateful steps over the edmund pettus bridge. >> his knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, and a book on government, all you need for a night behind bars, john lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change america. >> this city, on the banks of the alabama river, gave birth to a movement that changed this nation forever. our country will never, ever be the same because of what happened on this bridge. coming up -- >> we're going to continue to push, to pull, to stand up, and, if necessary, to sit down or sit in! customizes your car insurance
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in my younger days, i got arrested and went to jail 40 times and since been in congress another five times, and i may get arrested and go to jail again. >> reporter: during his 30-plus years in congress, john lewis has joined protests on darfur, apartheid, and immigration. >> he'll join a march or a demonstration or whatever in a minute, because that's where he got his start, and that's still in his blood. >> i tell my colleagues in the congress, do something. you cannot afford to be still. >> reporter: congresswoman katherine clark decided to do something after 49 people were killed at the pulse nightclub in orlando in june 2016. she wanted to force a vote on
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gun control legislation, but the leadership wouldn't allow it, so she turned to lewis for ideas. >> john said in his very quiet way, we have to do something dramatic. then he paused and he said, we have to do a sit-in. and when john lewis recommends that you do a sit-in, the only answer is yes, any way that i can help. >> reporter: congressman lewis stepped onto the house floor on june 22nd. >> we're calling on the leadership of the house to bring common-sense gun control legislation to the house floor. give us a vote! let us vote! >> reporter: then lewis and his group began an unprecedented sit-in, to try and force a vote. >> they are not trying to actually get this done through regular order. no, instead, they're staging protests. they're trying to get on tv. the chair wishes to make an announcement regarding the decorum in the house chamber. >> reporter: the republican leadership shut off c-span to
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try and block the protesters' access to the public. >> fortunately, we had members who had picked that up with facebook live, periscope, other social media tools. >> what made it so powerful was that there was an attempt to actually broadcast it to the nation, even when c-span wasn't running it. >> reporter: lewis and his colleagues kept the protests going for 25 hours. >> and i'm here today to say, john lewis, we join you in getting into good trouble on behalf of the american people. >> we never did get the vote that we wanted, but i think seeing someone like john lewis saying, this issue is important enough for me to stop the business of the house of representatives is profound. >> john lewis taught me that sometimes you might be powerless to stop an injustice, but you can never, ever be silent, because ultimately, the opposite
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of justice is not injustice, it's indifference, it's inaction, and it's silence. >> we're going to continue to push, to pull, to stand up, and if necessary, to sit down or sit in. >> reporter: the protests helped lewis connect with a new crop of younger activists. >> i think that that moment for john lewis was in many ways an introduction to a new generation. >> thank you, sir. >> many of these young people remind me of what we were like at the age of 18 and 19. and i tell them over and over again, whatever you do, do it in an orderly, peaceful, nonviolent fashion. >> congressman john lewis is here! >> reporter: lewis reached out to the new civil rights movement that had grown in recent years in response to video-taped police violence against african-americans.
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>> never give up. never give in. never become bitter or hostile. >> while they may not always be on the same page, i think he has a clear respect and admiration for their desire to insert themselves into this struggle. >> when you see young people or see football players kneeling, they're trying to make it real. they're trying to make it plain, to wake people up. >> reporter: after the shock of donald trump's election, john lewis decided he needed to wake people up. >> harsh, and frankly, stunning words for president-elect trump from a prominent democrat and civil rights figure. >> i don't plan to attend inauguration. >> john lewis was one of the first to actually stand up against this presidency. >> i don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president. >> reporter: with the perspective of his days in the deep south, lewis was especially incensed when trump nominated senator jeff sessions for attorney general.
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in the 1980s, sessions had prosecuted civil rights workers who were registering voters in alabama. >> i didn't think he was the person to be the attorney general of the united states, to be enforcing the voting rights act. >> i think he felt that the country had tried to push america back to where it was when he was growing up in troy, alabama. >> reporter: in a highly unusual move, senator cory booker asked lewis to join him in testifying against the nomination. >> i'll tell you, it was one of the moments of my life where i am sitting next to my hero and testifying with him. >> we need someone who's going to stand up, speak up, and speak out for the people that need help, for people who have been discriminated against. >> reporter: even though sessions was ultimately confirmed, lewis was lauded for his fortitude in testifying. >> what he did was an extraordinary thing. i think he understood that. but i think it was an indication of how strongly he felt that we had made substantial progress during the obama years and that progress was going to be put at
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risk. >> john lewis is not about popularity. he's about purpose. >> reporter: john lewis had been taking to the streets in protest for more than 50 years when the nation erupted in anger and protest after the death of george floyd. >> dr. martin luther king, jr. would be very pleased and very proud of seeing so many people engage in nonviolent protests. all over america but around the world. >> with the mayor of washington, d.c. he visited the newly renamed black lives matter plaza near the white house, a powerful message and a powerful messenger. >> we must say wake up america, wake up. >> we have a moral obdpagz, a mission and a mandate to say something, to do something. >> i think the model of john lewis is i'm going to put myself right in the middle of the fight for justice because this country
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is still not achieved itself the pathway of progress is still under construction. you've got to roll-up your sleeves and continue the work. >> i'm fired up. i'm fired up! i'm ready to march! ♪ i caught something out of the corner of my eye. my mom, she was laying on the grund. i went over expecting her to get up or say something. i put my hand on her shoulder, turned her and i could see blood, everywhere. >> their family always made the best of bad times. >> my mom always looked for the good in anything. >> but no one could fix this. >> our autopsy showed a total of five shots.