By Luke Kenton for DailyMail.com
Civil rights icon John Lewis said protesters had given him hope in his final hours in a powerful essay that he asked The New York Times to publish on the day of his funeral.
Lewis, who will be mourned and celebrated at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta later today, recorded the message as part of a powerful call to action he wrote just two days before his death.
“Although my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that you inspired me in the last days and hours of my life,” Lewis opened.
“You gave me hope for the next chapter of the great American story when you used your strength to make a difference in our society.
“While I may not be with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you really believe. In my life, I have done everything to show that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the best, ”he added. “Now it’s your turn to make freedom sound.”
In the play, Lewis shared his own fears about lynching Emmett Till in 1955 and how his death led him to the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King.
In June, Lewis visited the newly named Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC, which he called “ a powerful work of art. ” He was hospitalized the next day
Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor, ”said Lewis. “He was 14 when he was murdered, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never forget the moment when it became so clear that he could have been easy for me. ‘
In June, Lewis visited the newly named Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC, which he called “ a powerful work of art. ”
He wrote in his essay that although he was hospitalized a day after the visit, “I just needed to see and feel that after many years of silent testimony, the truth is still marching.”
Lewis, a prominent figure in the civil rights movement and a representative of a neighborhood in the Atlanta area at the home for more than three decades, died of pancreatic cancer on July 17. He was 80 years old.
Born in Troy, Alabama, and the son of tenant farmers, Lewis started civil rights activism at a young age. On March 7, 1965, at the age of 25, he helped march for voting on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
The day came to be known as ‘Bloody Sunday,’ after Lewis and countless other protesters were brutally attacked by the police, leaving a broken skull.
Images of the march stunned the nation and contributed to support for the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
The icon revealed in his last essay how Emmett Till’s lynching death was the catalyst for his lifelong struggle for equality and justice.
Born in Troy, Alabama, and the farmer’s son, Lewis (second from left) started civil rights activism at a young age. He helped lead a march for voting rights on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965 at the age of 25.
Lewis marches hand in hand with Barack Obama and Michelle Obama across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Selma’s civil rights march to Montgomery
“He was 14 when he was murdered, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never forget the moment when it became so clear that he could have been easy for me, ”wrote Lewis.
He said that he spent those days as a young black teenager trapped in “an imaginary prison” of fear, with the persistent feeling that cruelty could be committed at any time “for a now understandable reason.”
“Although I was surrounded by two loving parents, many brothers, sisters, and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression just outside that family circle,” wrote Lewis.
“Uncontrolled, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to take a simple walk to the shop for some skittles or jog an innocent morning on a lonely country road in a nightmare.”
Lewis said he was looking for a way out – or a way out – when he heard Martin Luther King’s voice on the radio, which inspired his activism.
“He talked about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we’re all complicit in tolerating injustice, “Lewis said.
“If you see something that is not right, you have to say something. You have to do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act and every generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and global society at peace with itself, ”he continued.
Lewis urged the next generation to continue with “good problems, necessary problems,” because “now it’s your turn to make freedom sound.” He was arrested more than 40 times during various demonstrations
In order to survive as a ‘united nation’, Lewis insisted that we first discover what ‘so easily takes root in our hearts that Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina could rob her smartest and best, unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain. ‘
Towards the end of his essay, Lewis called on the next generation of activists to continue the mantle of civil rights and continue the tradition of causing “good trouble.”
“Ordinary people with an extraordinary vision can save the soul of America by getting into what I call good difficulties, necessary problems,” he wrote.
Lewis said that voting and participating in the democratic process are two of the easiest and most important ways to bring about substantial change, calling the right to vote the most “powerful nonviolent changer” you can have in a democracy.
“If historians take their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation that finally laid the heavy burden of hatred and that peace eventually triumphed over violence, aggression and war,” he insisted. On.
“So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let yourself be guided by the spirit of peace and the power of eternal love.”
Lewis’ essay was published by the Times a few hours prior to his funeral service, which will take place Thursday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.