Mortal remains of civil rights hero Lewis cross Pettus Bridge for the last time
SELMA (US) – The mortal remains of iconic civil rights activist John Lewis crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Sunday, evoking memories of his “Bloody Sunday” beating there decades ago. The incident brought the spotlight on the struggle for racial equality.
The casket containing his body was draped in the national flag and was carried by military honour guard from Brown Chapel AME Church to a horse-drawn carriage, which went across the rose-petal strewn bridge where the clubbing of Lewis by a white state trooper during a voting rights demonstration in 1965 became a focal point of the movement.
The “Final Crossing” event was witnessed by hundreds of people singing civil rights anthems. His body will lie in state at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on Monday.
Once the carriage crossed the bridge, it was saluted by Black and white Alabama state troopers wearing masks.
Lewis, who was suffering from pancreatic cancer, died on July 17 at the age of 80. He championed nonviolent protest and was inspired by civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr.
The son of an Alabama sharecropper, Lewis struggled to get equal treatment for Blacks and played a major role in American politics for six decades. He was first elected to represent Georgia in 1986 in the US House of Representatives.
On March 7, 1965, non-violent demonstrators, including Lewis, marched through Edmund Pettus Bridge demanding voting rights regardless of race. They were stopped by club-wielding Alabama state troopers sent by segregationist governor George Wallace. Lewis was beaten black and blue and decades later, the scars were still visible. The event is now referred to as ‘Bloody Sunday’.
The beating of Lewis led to then President Lyndon Johnson demanding the Congress to approve legislation removing barriers to Black voting, and lawmakers passed the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field