Iconic civil rights leader to address 2014 UMES grads
PRINCESS ANNE, MD - (April 1, 2014) - Congressman John R.
Lewis will deliver the commencement address May 16 at the University of
Maryland Eastern Shore’s spring 2014 graduation exercises.
Lewis joins a
distinguished list of Civil Rights activists who have accepted invitations to speak to
UMES graduates, including former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Supreme Court
Justice Thurgood Marshall and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Lewis, 74, is the lone surviving
speaker among those who addressed an estimated 250,000 protesters at the August
1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his signature “I Have A Dream”
speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
Today, Lewis enjoys a
prominent role as a senior Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, where
he has served since 1987. He is dean of Georgia’s congressional delegation.
With the nation reflecting
on the 50th anniversaries of the Washington march a year ago and adoption
of the 1964 Civil Rights act, Americans have been reminded of Lewis’ role on
the front-lines of the movement and the difficulties that he, King and fellow
Lewis was arrested some
40 times, endured physical attacks and sustained serious injuries during non-violent
marches in opposition to segregation and campaigning for equal voting rights for
blacks. A cameraman captured Alabama police on film in March 1965 unmercifully beating
Lewis in Selma, which brought the repression that African-Americans were enduring
into America’s living rooms on the TV evening news.
As chairman of the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, Lewis befriended the
late John A. Wilson, a firebrand contemporary from Princess Anne. Wilson led
protests in the community as a Maryland State College undergraduate and like
Lewis, eventually won election to public office, serving as a Washington, D.C.
Lewis is the co-author
of the widely acclaimed “MARCH,’ a graphic-novel memoir of his Civil Rights
era experiences. The unique comic book-style presentation was atop the New
York Times sales tracking list and has received numerous awards.
congressional biography notes more than 50 of the nation’s colleges and
universities have awarded him an honorary degree, including Brown, Columbia, Duke,
Harvard, Howard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Morehouse College,
Clark-Atlanta University, Brandeis University, his alma mater, Fisk University
and Troy (Ala.) State University, the historically black institution near his
Those institutions honored
Lewis in recognition of his role as a leader whose life’s work has placed him “at
the vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggle in
the United States.”
Bill Robinson, director, UMES Office of Public Relations; (410) 621-2355