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Interview with John Lewis, May 12, 2012

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:28 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: I'm Bob Short, and this is Reflections on Georgia Politics, sponsored by the Russell Library at the University of Georgia for Political Research and Studies and the Duckworth Library at Young Harris College.

Segment Synopsis: Interviewer Bob Short introduces interviewee John Lewis.

00:01:04 - Early life and education

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Partial Transcript: John Robert Lewis from rural Pike County in South Alabama--that's where it all began.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis describes his early life in rural, segregated Alabama and meeting the major players in the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement as a young man.

Keywords: American Baptist College; Brown v. Board of Education; Busing; Corn crop; Cotton crop; First Baptist Church; Fred Gray; Freedom Rides; Livestock; Martin Luther King Jr.; Ministry; Montgomery, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; Patience; Poultry; Ralph Abernathy; Rosa Parks; Rural; Segregation; Seminary; Sharecropper; Sharecropping; Social justice; Tenant farming; Troy State University; Troy, Alabama; Tuskegee, Alabama

00:05:44 - Student activism in Nashville

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about your activities in Nashville.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses attending civil rights meetings with black and white students from many Nashville schools and beginning sit-ins in fall 1959, prior to the famous Greensboro, N.C. sit-ins of 1960.

Keywords: American Baptist Theological Seminary; Civil disobedience; Fisk University; Greensboro, North Carolina; Henry David Thoreau; Integration; Jim Crow laws; Mahatma Gandhi; Meharry Medical College; Nashville Student Movement; Non-violence; Non-violent protest; Peabody College; Religion; Role-playing; Scarritt College; Sit-in movement; Social justice; Student protests; Tennessee State University; Vanderbilt University

00:07:49 - Mentor James Lawson / Ministry aspirations

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Partial Transcript: James Lawson.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis praises activist James Lawson, under whom he studied in Nashville, and tells an anecdote about preaching to his chickens while growing up on his family's farm.

Keywords: Chicken coop; Chicken yard; Congregation; Korean War; Lunch counter demonstrations; Mentor; Methodism; Methodist minister; Ministry; Pacifism; Pacifist; Participation; SNCC; Shyness; Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

00:10:39 - Confrontations during the Nashville protests

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Partial Transcript: Okay, back to Nashville: Diane Nash...

Segment Synopsis: Lewis describes some of the aggression and violence perpetrated against the protestors during the Nashville sit-ins and protests.

Keywords: Arrest; C.T. Vivian; Disorderly conduct; Jail; Legislation; Liberation; March on Washington; Mass movement; Mississippi summer; Nashville City Jail; Religious leader; Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Student leader; Thurgood Marshall; Trumped-up charges; United States Supreme Court; Withdrawal campaign

00:15:46 - Assault and reconciliation on the Freedom Rides

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Partial Transcript: Let's start with the Freedom Rides.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis speaks about his experiences as one of the original thirteen Freedom Riders and tells of how, forty years later, one of the white men who beat him at a bus station apologized to him in Lewis's Washington, D.C. office.; he also indicates that the Freedom Rides encountered no issues in Georgia.

Keywords: Assault; Charlotte, North Carolina; Confederacy; Freedom Riders; Georgia; Greyhound Bus; Intrastate travel; Public transportation; Rock Hill, South Carolina; Southern states; Supreme Court decision; Trailways Bus; Virginia; Washington, D.C.

00:20:19 - Outcome of the Freedom Rides

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Partial Transcript: You were in Anniston.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis explains that though the Freedom Riders experience violence and jail time for their participation, its effect on desegregation in public transit was swift and final.

Keywords: Alabama state line; Anniston, Alabama; Bull Connor; Fielder City Jail; Freedom Songs; Hinds County Prison; Interstate Commerce Commission; Jackson, Mississippi; John F. Kennedy; Montgomery, Alabama; Parchman State Penitentiary; Protective custody; Robert Kennedy; Ross Barnett

00:22:41 - Formation and work of SNCC

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Partial Transcript: You were a co-founder and president at one time of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis describes the genesis of SNCC, of which he became chair, and its eventual dissolution.

Keywords: Atlanta, Georgia; Charles McDew; Chuck McDew; Easter weekend; Ella Baker; Jimmy Carter; Julian Bond; Lyndon Johnson; Marion Barry; Morehouse College; Shaw University; South Carolina State University; South Georgia; Student protests; Voting rights; We Shall Overcome

00:27:39 - The power of the black vote / Arrest history

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Partial Transcript: Jack Nelson once said that in the south...

Segment Synopsis: Lewis opines that the vote is one of the most powerful instruments of change for the civil rights movement and the country, and mentions some of his many arrests as a civil rights activist.

Keywords: Bi-racial; City council; City government; County government; Elected officials; Good Samaritan Hall; Lawrence County, Alabama; Selma, Alabama; VEP; Voter Education Project; Voter registration; Waterproof, Louisiana

00:30:25 - Bloody Sunday (March over Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama)

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Partial Transcript: So you're standing on the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama...

Segment Synopsis: Lewis recalls the famous march through Alabama, in which he was seriously injured, and recites part of the speech Lyndon Johnson gave before signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Keywords: Alabama River; Alabama State Troopers; Brown Chapel AME church; Constitutional rights; Demonstrations; Deputies; Deputized; Dignity; Federal court; Frank M. Johnson; Gas masks; George Wallace; Good Samaritan Hospital; Hosea Williams; Military protection; National politics; Nightsticks; Nuns; Priests; Rabbis; Sheriff Jim Clark:Posse; Southern politics; Tear gas; Vietnam War

00:36:45 - Greatest accomplishments and disappointments

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Partial Transcript: Looking back over those years of non-violent protests, is there anything you might have done differently?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis summarizes some of the highlights and lowlights of his civil rights career.

Keywords: Asian-Americans; Education; Latino-Americans; Native Americans; Peace; Sensitization; Youth

00:39:29 - Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Thank you.

Segment Synopsis: Short and Lewis conclude the interview.