ICYMI: Civil rights icon, John Lewis, discusses his life, struggle for justice, and best-selling graphic novel

Last Updated by Zosette Guir on

Last week, long-time member of Congress and historic civil rights leader, Rep. John Lewis appeared in Ann Arbor to discuss his life’s work promoting justice and equality over a career that has spanned more than 66 years. From lunch counter sit-ins to Freedom Rides to the famed march on Montgomery, he has figured prominently in the major battles of our times for human dignity.

As part of the University of Michigan Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series, Rep. Lewis discussed his life in the civil rights movement and in Congress, recounted in his best-selling graphic novel trilogy: “March.” He was joined in the talk by his co-author,Andrew Aydin, and illustrator Nate Powell.

In partnership with Penny Stamps, Detroit Public Television (DPTV) live-streamed the event at dptv.org/johnlewis.

Often referred to as “the Conscience of the U.S. Congress,” Rep. Lewis has served Georgia’s 5th district since 1987. A member of the Democratic Party leadership, Lewis was named the Senior Chief Deputy Whip in 2003.

Through the years, Lewis has earned many honors for his activism and service to the community. In 1999, the University of Michigan awarded Lewis with the Wallenberg Medal for his lifelong commitment to the defense of civil and human rights. In 2011, Lewis received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.

In 2013, the first book in the “March” trilogy appeared to widespread praise. Aydin, who is currently Rep. Lewis’s digital director and policy advisor, persuaded him to publish a graphic novel after hearing stories of his role in the civil rights struggle, which resulted in more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries. They recruited Powell, a best-selling graphic novelist himself, to illustrate the book.

When the final installment of the trilogy came out in 2016, it debuted at No. 1 in The New York Times bestseller list for graphic novels, with the other two installments occupying the second and third spots.

Rep. Lewis has quite a story to tell, and his talk in Ann Arbor was a riveting account of his life, his accomplishments and his work to make the American dream one we can all aspire to.

The University of Michigan’s Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series brings respected innovators from a broad spectrum of fields to campus to conduct public lectures and to engage with students, faculty, and the larger University and Ann Arbor communities.

This Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series event is co-presented with the Conflict and Peace Initiative at the University of Michigan’s International Institute and the King-Chavez-Parks Visiting Professors Program. The Conflict and Peace Initiative is hosting a series of Fall 2017 social justice events called Marching Forward.

For more information on their the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series, visit: https://stamps.umich.edu/stamps/

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