NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is honoring the legacy of U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in the form of a Forever Stamp, which was unveiled in Nashville Thursday at the American Baptist College, where Lewis went to school in 1957.
“It’s historically powerful that on this spot, this place, the unveiling of a stamp honoring John Lewis would take place where he got his humble beginnings as a public servant,” Dr. Forest E. Harris Sr., president of the American Baptist College, said.
Before he spent decades in Congress, Lewis was originally introduced to the Civil Rights Movement and the principles of nonviolent protest in Nashville.
The civil rights icon attended both the American Baptist College, previously known as the American Baptist Theological Seminary, and Fisk University. While in school, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville.
The street where some of the sit-ins occurred, 5th Avenue, was renamed Rep. John Lewis Way in January 2021.
“In serving the role of a leader in the movement, a leader in the movement, he was not afraid to get into trouble…In fact, the trouble he would often call ‘good trouble,'” Dr. Ricardo Guthrie, distinguished associate professor of social justice at Fisk University, said.
On March 7, 1965, Lewis led demonstrators across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama, in a civil rights march. The event became known as Bloody Sunday because protesters, including Lewis, were brutally beaten by police. Lewis suffered a fractured skull and was hospitalized.
“John Lewis refused to back down,” said Omar Coleman, the USPS Tennessee district manager. “He said he was prepared to die because he had made peace with the fact that his life would serve a divine purpose.”
Lewis was arrested 45 times during protests and demonstrations fighting for the desegregation of interstate bus systems and public accommodations in the South, in addition to voting, housing, and other civil rights. His work ultimately led to the passing of significant legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
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Lewis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986 for Georgia’s 5th congressional district, serving in that role until his death in 2020.
The late congressman’s stamp is now on sale at USPS retail locations, as well as online.