House

Civil rights icon Rev. James Lawson: ‘We need the Constitution to come alive’ to honor Lewis

ALYSSA POINTER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Rev James M. Lawson speaks during the funeral of late Civil Rights leader John Lewis at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia on July 30, 2020. – Lewis, a 17-term Democratic member of the US House of Representatives from the southern state of Georgia, died of pancreatic cancer on July 17 at the age of…

The Rev. James Lawson, a major leader and tactician in the civil rights movement, spoke at Rep. John Lewis’s (D-Ga.) funeral Thursday, saying Lewis practiced politics the nation “need[s] more desperately than ever before.”

Lawson, a close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who trained many of the movement’s leaders in nonviolent tactics, said Lewis “practiced not the politics that we call bipartisan.”

“John Lewis practiced the politics that we the people of the U.S. need more desperately than ever before — the politics of the Declaration of Independence, the politics of the preamble to the Constitution of the United States,” he said.

“We do not need bipartisan politics if we’re going to celebrate the life of John Lewis,” Lawson, 91, continued. “We need the Constitution to come alive: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident.’

“We need the Congress and the president to work unfalteringly on behalf of every boy and every girl so that every baby born on these shores will have access to the tree of life,” Lawson continued. “That’s the only way to honor John Robert Lewis. No other way.”  

Like Lewis himself, Lawson directly tied the activism of the civil rights era to the Black Lives Matter movement, saying he and other members of the movement “swore to God that, by God’s grace, we would do whatever God called us to do in order to put on the table of the nation’s agenda: This must end: Black lives matter!”

Lawson ended his remarks by reading the poem “I Dream A World,” by the legendary Black poet Langston Hughes, which contains the lines “A world I dream where black or white / Whatever race you be / Will share the bounties of the earth / And every man is free.”

Tags Activism Civil rights movement Freedom riders John Lewis John Lewis Lawson Martin Luther King Jr. Selma to Montgomery marches
See all Hill.TV See all Video