Lewis: Barriers to equality persist

Invisible barriers in the fight for equality persist 50 years after the March on Washington, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said Wednesday. 

Lewis listed voting rights, mass incarceration, stop-and-frisk laws and the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case as examples of the need for progress. 

But the congressman, who spoke ahead of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the original march, also expressed hope at how far the nation has come.

"Sometimes I hear people saying, nothing has changed, but for someone to grow up the way I grew up, in the cotton fields of Alabama, to now be serving in the United States Congress, makes me want to tell them, come and walk in my shoes,” he said in an address Wednesday that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. 

Lewis, who was arrested dozens of times during civil rights-era protests, gave one of the most impassioned speeches Wednesday. 

Several other speakers, including President Obama, offered tributes on Wednesday to the congressman, just 23 when he spoke at the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago. 

After his speech, then-President Kennedy invited him and a number of speakers to the White House to congratulate them, Lewis noted. 

He described Washington, D.C., as being in a state of unease as the date of the march approached in 1963, but he noted that there was not a single instance of violence that day.