On Waking Up | John Lewis, American Baptist ’61

August 28, 1963: John Lewis was the youngest speaker to address the estimated quarter-million people at the March on Washington. Initially, Lewis’ speech hammered the Kennedy White House for its failure to protect southern blacks and civil rights workers from violent attacks. At the behest of Roy Wilkins and Kentucky State University alumnus Whitney Young, Lewis removed phrases like this one.

The time will come when we will not confine our marching to Washington. We will march through the South, through the heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own scorched earth” policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground — nonviolently. We shall fragment the South into a thousand pieces and put them back together in the image of democracy. We will make the action of the past few months look petty. And I say to you, WAKE UP AMERICA!

– John Robert Lewis, American politician, civil rights activist, U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district, also graduated from Fisk University ’67