John Lewis’ funeral: Remarks by Rev. James Lawson

The Rev. James Lawson, 91, who taught John Lewis and other civil rights workers in the way of nonviolence, was one of the speakers at his funeral Thursday in Atlanta.

Lawson recalled Lewis and other civil rights workers and traced the issues in the early years of the movement to what is continuing to happen in the world today.

“The media makes a mistake when John is only seen in relation to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, however important that is,” Lawson said. Also passed during the same period of 1953 to 1973 were the Head Start program, affordable housing programs supported by federal loans, Medicare, anti-poverty programs and the civil rights bills of 1964 and 1965, he said.

“John Lewis must be understood as one of the leaders of the greatest advance of the Congress and the White House on behalf of we the people of the USA,” Lawson said.

Lawson said viewing Lewis' legacy as just voting rights was too narrow and that Lewis practiced "not the politics that we call bipartisan" but instead "the politics of the Declaration of Independence, the politics of the preamble of the Constitution."

Lawson said "most of the books are wrong about John Lewis" and the "so-called civil rights" movement.

Lewis and the others involved in the movement were “all led there.” He called it “providential.”

The movement, he said should be called "the nonviolent movement in America."

He continued, “Those are not my words. John Lewis called what we did between 1953 and 1973 the Nonviolent Movement of America, not the CRM (Civil Rights Movement). I think we need to get the story straight because words are powerful.”

He said Lewis’ entire life was about fighting “forces of wickedness,” including racism, sexism, violence and “plantation capitalism” and that Lewis worked “to get us to see these forces of wickednesss must be resisted.”

He continued: “Drink the truth of the life force. If we would honor and celebrate John Lewis’ life, let us then re-commit our souls, our hearts, our minds, our bodies and our strength to the continuing journey to dismantle the wrong in our midst and to allow the space for the new earth and new heaven to emerge.”