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Reflecting On The Life And Legacy Of John Lewis

APTOPIX John Lewis Remembered
John Bazemore
The casket of Rep. John Lewis moves over the Edmund Pettus Bridge by horse drawn carriage during a memorial service for Lewis, Sunday, July 26, 2020, in Selma, Ala. Lewis, who carried the struggle against racial discrimination from Southern battlegrounds of the 1960s to the halls of Congress, died Friday, July 17, 2020.

Over the final week of July, we’ve been celebrating a man who was often called one of the most courageous persons in the civil rights movement: Congressman John Lewis.

Lewis died in the month of July from Pancreatic cancer at the age of 80. He dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties and building what he liked to call the “beloved community in America.”

He was the son of sharecroppers in Alabama, born February 21, 1940, Lewis grew up on his family’s farm and attended segregated public schools. As a young boy he was inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery bus boycott and the words of Rev Martin Luther King Jr. – which he heard on radio broadcast. It was in those pivotal moments he made the decision to become part of the civil rghts movement.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer remembers Rep. John Lewis with Kesho Scott. Scott is one of Iowa’s most revered writers and speakers when it comes to diversity, inclusion and fighting against racism.

Looking back on the life and legacy of Lewis, Scott says she was moved to tears and joy.

“When I learned his famous term ‘good trouble’ I realized that part of my life was going to be about staying in 'good trouble,'” Scott says. “Just like [Lewis] was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1955, I was inspired by him as a 13-year-old.”

Later in the interview, Scott talks about getting into ‘good trouble’ today with her current work in activism, arranging peaceful gatherings and memorials for George Floyd across rural Iowa.

“What we’re showing is that silence is not an American value in small towns,” says Scott. “People in small towns have a variation of opinion, that these issues matter to them as much as they matter in in cities and that they’re impacted by the pandemic, police violence, too, and poverty. They have something to say.”

Scott’s next event, Peace Proclamation, is scheduled for Sunday, August 9 at 1:30 pm in Washington, IA.


· Kesho Scott, associate professor of American Studies and Sociology, Grinnell College

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Matthew is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa