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BASH: Congressman John Lewis marched with martin Luther King Jr., sat in at segregated lunch countering and literary bled for the right to vote. Now as America march the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington he is reaching out to a new generation with a graphic novel and his story of the civil rights movement.
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LEWIS: Are you the boy from Troy? Are you John Lewis? I just want to meet the boy from Troy. I was so scared. Who is this young man who wants to desegregate Troy state? I didn't know what to say or what to do. Dr. King, I am John Robert Lewis. I said my whole name. When I met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it changed my life.
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BASH: Congressman John Lewis on race in America then and now when we come back.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They come from the north, the south, the east and west. They come united in one cause, that today's gathering is the largest in Washington's history.
BASH: Wednesday is the 50th anniversary of the 1963 march on Washington. Thousands will commemorate the event with a march for jobs and justice beginning at the labor department with a call for more government action to address high unemployment. Then a stop at the justice department urging a federal civil rights suit against George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of the killing of Trayvon Martin. The march will pass the Washington monument and the World War II Memorial before ending at the Lincoln Memorial with speeches by presidents Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Thousands gathered on the National Mall Saturday to mark the anniversary.
The only surviving keynote speaker of the original march 50 years ago, Congressman John Lewis spoke of that event.
LEWIS: I stood right here in this spot.
BASH: He has just written a graphic novel to coincide with this week's event. Candy spoke with John Lewis.
CROWLEY: Why the graphic novel?
LEWIS: Well, I felt strongly that we needed to do something, to write something, to put it down, to tell the story for another generation, for children, and for people not so young.
CROWLEY: What do you think they don't know about it now?
LEWIS: I wanted young people to understand what it was all about, that we accepted the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence. That we were beaten and arrested and went to jail and we didn't become bitter or hostile. That we never gave up because we wanted to be what Dr. King called the beloved community.
CROWLEY: I want to play something for you that President Obama said. This was in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case and the jury verdict.
OBAMA: We need to spend some time thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys. Is there more that we can do to give them a sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them.
CROWLEY: What is it the president is talking about?
LEWIS: We needed a president, a man like Barack Obama, to say that. And maybe, just give these young men, not just African- American, but all young men a greater sense of hope, to instill in them some values. During the height of the civil rights movement, we grew up, we had something to stand up for. We had something to believe in. I grew up, I literally grew up on lunch counter stools and going on the freedom ride, I participated in a march.
CROWLEY: A feeling of purpose you're talking about.
LEWIS: You had a sense of purpose. You had goals that we wanted to desegregate the lunch counters, the restaurants, to gain the right to vote.
CROWLEY: When you look back on that day 50 years ago on the Mall, you have talked about it as a key moment in the civil rights movement. So many people have said it's pivotal. What did it change?
LEWIS: The march on Washington was a significant turning point. We had people coming from all over America. And even Americans living abroad, they left France, they left England, they got on planes and they came to Washington. There were people black and white, Latinos, Asian-American, Native American, wanted to bear witness to something. They wanted to petition the government. Members of Congress, the president. And it said through their numbers and through their sense of order and dignity that America would never, ever be the same. You know, President Kennedy didn't like the idea of a march on Washington. He said if you bring all these people to Washington, there will be violence and chaos and disorder. You'll never get a civil rights bill through the Congress. But when the march was all over and Dr. King had delivered that magnificent "I have a dream" speech, the president welcomed us back down to the White House. He stood in the door of the oval office beaming like a proud father, greeting each one of us. He shook our hands and he said you did a good job, you did a good job. And when he got to Dr. King, he said, and you had a dream.
CROWLEY: Congressman John Lewis, you know it's always a pleasure to have you here. Thank you so much.
LEWIS: Thank you so much for having me.
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