In memory of John Lewis: Civil Rights Icon

Renetta W. Howard
Renetta W. Howard





Today, I shed a tear. When it comes to solemn occasions, I usually do not shed a tear. Of course, you know that when my mother died that I hooped and hollered up until the day of her funeral when reality set in, and I knew that I had to accept the final results. I can remember only two other times during religious services when I not only shed a tear but had to leave the ceremony to get myself calmed down.

It is a time like this when I feel that death has come too soon to individuals who had so much to offer society, people and the world in which we live.  As a matter of fact, some lives should be forever, and I suppose that is why we do our best to make certain that their legacy endures forever by regularly celebrating them in some way to keep them and the hope that they espoused, alive.

I have been impressed by many civil rights leaders from my childhood until today.  Some of them may not have been labeled civil rights leaders but in their own way, they definitely were, such as Benjamin Mayes when he was President of Morehouse College and spoke at one of my high school assemblies. When he had finished, he told us to run to our classes because we as a people had so much to catch up on.

It was in Atlanta, Georgia where I met Marion Wright Edelman, a protégée of my majoring professor, Dr. Clarence Bacote, who insisted that I hear her speak. It was in Atlanta that I listened to Stokely Carmichael and wrote a paper on the injustice to Julian Bond’s incident of not being allowed to sit in the seat which he won in the Georgia election and learned of the brave activities of one John Robert Lewis and his great sacrifices to the civil rights movement.

Chills ran over my body as I heard of the many mistreatments which he took without malice which at some points made me wonder if he were really intelligent. After a final look, I decided that this man was not only intelligent but a martyr. He took the harsh treatments and still had love in his heart for all of humanity. As a state Representative in the United States Congress, he was always a leader and a fighter for whatever was right. He was steadfast in his search for equality for all and especially the cause of his fellow Black citizens.

We salute a man who made the ultimate sacrifices as the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee – also known as SNCC, pronounced Snick – from 1963-1966. He went to Washington D.C. in 1963 with M.L. King, Jr. and crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge where he suffered bodily harm in 1965. I was also happy to be in the audience when he made the 2008 commencement address in which my granddaughter graduated from Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi. This ceremony also marked the 50th Anniversary of my mother’s graduation from this same college.

Let us get ‘in cinque’ and pay homage to our heroes.


Renetta W. Howard is a former social worker and educator. She is the author of Julia’s Story, Feathers in My Hair and writes a monthly blog, IN CINQUE. She can be reached through


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.