John Lewis was born in Pike County, Alabama, on 21st February, 1940. While attending the American Baptist Theological Seminary he became a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
In 1961 Lewis became a member of the Freedom Riders. After training in non-violent techniques, black and white volunteers sat next to each other as they travelled through the Deep South. Local police were unwilling to protect these passengers and in several places they were beaten up by white mobs.
Elected chairperson of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1963, Lewis helped organize the famous March on Washington. On 28th August, 1963, more than 200,000 people marched peacefully to the Lincoln Memorial to demand equal justice for all citizens under the law. At the end of the march Martin Luther King made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Lewis also spoke at the meeting where he condemned American racism and segregation.
Other posts held by Lewis include: director of Action (1977-1980) and community affairs director, National Consumer Co-op Bank, Atlanta (1980-86). A member of the Democratic Party, Lewis served on the Atlanta City Council (1982-86) before being elected to Congress for Georgia (January, 1987 to the present).