The ‘Good Trouble’ of Civil Rights Icon John Lewis
A new documentary from CNN Films focuses on politician and civil rights leader, John Lewis, who participated in several key moments in the fight for racial equality.
“When you see something that is not right … say something! Do something!” Lewis is shown saying repeatedly in speeches and appearances — advising his audiences on the periodic need for “good trouble, necessary trouble.”
This sentiment surely resonates today, with ongoing protests for racial equality following the death of George Floyd in May of this year.
Born in 1940 in Troy, Alabama, to sharecroppers, Lewis is currently the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district — serving in his 17th term in the House. He has served since 1987 and is the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation.
Lewis has received numerous honorary degrees and awards from around the world, including the highest civilian honor of the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2011. His dedication to the Civil Rights movement can be traced far back to his college years, where he staged sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville and bus boycotts in response to their segregation.
In his early 20s, Lewis became one of the 13 original Freedom Riders who advocated for integrated seating on buses, determined to ride from Washington D.C. to New Orleans in an integrated fashion. He also participated in the March on Washington and walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. These incidents often resulted in beatings by police as well as arrests — 40 to be exact, as well as being handcuffed 45 times. Lewis also points out that several of these altercations occurred during his time in Congress.
Several famous and pivotal figures make appearances in the new film, commenting on Lewis’s life and legacy: Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Cory Booker — along with former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary.
Lewis also appears — speaking for himself, he touches on subjects such as the nation’s long road to justice and equality, his emotional response to Barack Obama’s election and his commitment to fight for his beliefs. He remains hopeful but wary of the challenges that still persist today.
Directed by Dawn Porter (“Bobby Kennedy for President”), the new documentary also features previously unseen material. The film’s website also includes links to inspire concrete action in regards to voting and of course, encourages people to make good trouble. Surely, in our unprecedented times, this film is more relevant than ever and can provide insight for today’s advocates who are fighting for racial equality.
John Lewis: Good Trouble is available in select theaters and on demand starting July 3.