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Statement on the Passing of Congressman John Lewis By Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation

Saturday, July 18, 2020 – America has lost one of its greatest heroes. Congressman John Lewis was a legend in our time. From his days as a young student among the original Freedom Riders to his stirring words at the March on Washington, from the beatings and tear gas he endured on Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, to his leadership and public service over more than 30 years in Congress, to his pride in the Black Lives Matter movement, Congressman Lewis embodied the fight for civil rights in America. As a tireless warrior for racial justice, equality, freedom, and basic human rights for all, he led a life of unflinching commitment to realizing the promise of this country – even when it was hard, and especially when it was hard.

Congressman Lewis will always hold a special place in our hearts at The Rockefeller Foundation: more than 50 years ago, when Jim Crow prevented 7-in-10 African Americans in the South from voting, we were honored to support his efforts at the Southern Regional Council to create the groundbreaking Voter Education Project. Under his leadership, the project helped register more than 300,000 new voters, who regained their right to participate in our democracy’s most sacred practice. And over the last three years, we’ve been proud to help turn the story of Selma into a free, online digital education platform – Selma Online – to help future generations learn about the civil rights and voting rights movements.

Congressman Lewis recently joined us and our Board of Trustees to reflect and share lessons learned over a lifetime of fighting for justice and equality. Hearing him talk about the need for more “good trouble,” how he almost gave his life that day on the bridge in Selma – how far we’ve come as a nation, and how much farther we still have to go – I could not have been more inspired. Though he no longer lives with us, he will live on within us. We will carry on the fight to which he dedicated his life, as we work to build a more diverse, more just, and fully equitable society. And we will keep marching forward, as we know he would, for however long it takes.

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