John Lewis- Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

John Lewis founder and first president of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
John Lewis founder and first president of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

John Lewis is recognized as one of the “Big Six” leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Mr. Lewis was born on February 21, 1940, in Troy Alabama, into a family of sharecroppers. He was committed to getting an education for himself and justice for African Americans. He was a strong believer in nonviolence, but white children in his school harassed, beat and spit on John and his friends. In 1961, he challenged the segregation of interstate buses with fellow students on the Freedom Rides. In 1963, John founded the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee and became its first president. He then went on to organize SNCC’s efforts for “Mississippi Freedom Summer, ” a promotion to register black voters across the south. SNCC played a major role in the sit-ins and freedom rides and in the late 1960s focused on “black power,” and then protested against the Vietnam War. In 1965, Mr. Lewis and Hosea Williams led a protest in Selma Alabama, which was going smoothly until the marchers went across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and found a wall of state troopers waiting for them on the other side. The state troopers injured many of the marchers, mostly African Americans, but others as well, by beating them to the ground. This protest became known as “Bloody Sunday.” John Lewis’s skull was fractured, and before he went to the hospital he went on television asking for President Johnson to get involved in Alabama. After the violent deaths in 1968, of two of his close friends, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy, John Lewis became committed to nonviolence. Lewis become Director of the Voter Education Project and helped bring new minority voters into the democratic process. African Americans were starting to take voting control in the South. President Jimmy Carter nominated John Lewis to head the Federal Volunteer Agency. In 1981, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council and became an effective advocate for neighborhood preservation and government reform. In 1986, John Lewis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives representing Atlanta, Georgia. Congressman John Lewis is currently part of the House Budget Committee, serves as Senior Chief Deputy Democratic Whip, is a member of both the Democratic Steering Committee and Congressional Black Caucus. John Lewis was a strong leader during the Civil Rights Movement and continues to be a leader in Congress.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Senator Robert Kennedy
Hosea Williams

The main goal of the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee was to end segregation. SNCC members would organize sit-ins at racially segregated lunch counters to protest the spreading of Jim Crow laws and other forms of racism. In addition to sitting in at lunch counters, SNCC also organized and carried out protests at segregated public libraries, public parks, and public swimming pools.


John Lewis is an advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence and the belief that all men and women are created equal and should have the same rights.

John Lewis has received many honorary degrees and awards, for his leadership during the Civil Rights Movement. These awards include the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize, the NAACP Spingarn Medal, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Award of the National Education Association, and the John F. Kennedy "Profile in Courage" award for lifetime achievement. His courage and integrity have won him the admiration of congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Senator John McCain, a Republican, wrote a moving tribute to John Lewis in his book, Why Courage Matters. Founder and first President of SNCC, John Lewis had a major impact on helping African Americans gain voting rights, which helped lead to greater rights and equality in other areas.

SNCC helped create prosperity in the South by giving black people the right to vote. Not only did the SNCC help end segregation, they inspired other movements like the Women's Liberation Movement. In an interview about the SNCC, Taylor Branch said "people in the SNCC played the same role as the Founding Fathers did." They were able to confront the problem of people being treated differently and created equal rights for everybody.

This is the symbol for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
This is the symbol for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee