John Lewis Visited East High in 2011. Watch His Speech

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — U.S. Rep. John R. Lewis, the Civil Rights leader who died late Friday, visited East High School in October 2011 and delivered a powerful message of determination, hope and courage.

He recounted episodes from his life, including the epic “Bloody Sunday,” the day in March 1965 when Alabama State Police attacked Civil Rights marchers as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma. “I thought I saw death,” Lewis told a rapt audience. “I thought I was going to die.”

Lewis is restrained, and later beaten, by police after crossing the Pettus Bridge.

CLICK HERE to see his address. READ HERE how The Business Journal’s Dennis LaRue covered the congressman’s visit nine years ago.

Lewis came to East High at the invitation of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past. The organization takes a small group of Youngstown students on a 10-day annual journey to the Civil Rights landmarks in the South.

“Each year, Congressman John Lewis would fly to Atlanta to meet the Sojourn to the Past students as they began their journey to the Civil Rights sites in the South,” says Penny Wells, executive director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn. “He said he knew this journey was transformative for young people. Before beginning the Sojourn journey, the students read Congressman Lewis’s book, Walking With the Wind, his autobiography.”

At East High, she continues, “Lewis spoke to the students about his following the Principles of Nonviolence as he stood up for social justice. Something he did for his entire life. And he challenged them to do the same.”

Sojourn will conduct a candlelight vigil in his memory Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. on the steps of the Nathaniel R. Jones Courthouse downtown.

“Our hearts are saddened by his passing, but we realize we now have the responsibility to pick up his baton and continue his battle for justice for all people. With John Lewis as our role model, we can do nothing less.” Wells says.

Mahoning Valley Sojourn conceived the idea of creating “Nonviolence Week” in October. The first week in October is so designated by the Ohio Legislature. To that end nationally, Lewis sponsored a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Pictured at top: John Lewis at East High School. At right is Penny Wells, director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.