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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Big Six Civil Rights Leader U.S. Rep John Lewis in Little Rock April 27

Congressman John Lewis, one of America’s most iconic and prominent civil rights leaders, will be a featured author at this year’s Arkansas Literary Festival.

Congressman John LewisThe UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center are hosting the free public event at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 27, at Mosaic Templars.

“How fortunate we are to have a legend among us who can still give first-hand perspective on helping to lead the largest social movement of our time,” said Dr. Michael R. Twyman, director of the Institute.

Lewis’s new graphic novel memoir, “March: Book One,” was co-written by Andrew Aydin and drawn by North Little Rock native, Nate Powell. The book has become a number one New York Times bestseller and was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book.

The book is the first of a planned trilogy of graphic novels that aim to share Congressman Lewis’s “remarkable story with new generations.”

“Congressman Lewis literally risked his life on the front lines to protect the rights of countless Americans, thus making a more just country,” Twyman said.

Lewis was arrested 24 times during nonviolent protests while leading and participating in sit-ins, demonstrations, and the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March.

As the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lewis was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington and the youngest member of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders. The Big Six also included James Farmer of the Congress of Racial Equality, Martin Luther King, Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Roy Wilkins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Whitney Young Jr. of the National Urban League.

Leaders of the 1963 March on Washington, D.C. ( John Lewis is second from right). (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)Under his leadership, SNCC opened Freedom Schools and launched the Mississippi Freedom Summer to get people registered to vote. These efforts led to the pivotal Selma to Montgomery marches.

“His example is an inspiration to us all and we are ever indebted for his many sacrifices. I hope that the Little Rock community will show its support for Congressman Lewis’ visit and get a copy of his most recent book,” Twyman said.

In 1960, Lewis became one of the 13 original Freedom Riders. The Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into segregated areas of the South to test 1960 U.S. Supreme Court decision ordering all interstate bus companies to integrate interstate transportation waiting rooms and restrooms.

Five Freedom Riders came to Little Rock in 1961. UALR commemorated the 50th anniversary of their visit by launching the UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity and the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail on July 10, 2011.

Lewis is currently the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2011.

For 11 years, the Arkansas Literary Festival, a project of the Central Arkansas Library System, has brought prestigious award winners, big names, writers for television shows, journalists, and artists to share their works with the city and state.

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