John Lewis’ memoir is one of the most important records of the Civil Rights Movement. You will meet this incredibly courageous American hero. In order to get the most out of meeting Congressman Lewis and to understand many critical events within the movement, it is strongly recommended that you read, take notes and answer the questions on the following chapters. I promise you will have a much richer experience if you are well prepared. The people you meet and the places you visit will have greater impact if you know the story. Remember to bring these notes and the plane with you.
Prologue to Walking with the Wind p. xv-xvii
John Lewis tells a story about one Saturday afternoon when he was a young boy. What happened that afternoon?
Lewis states, “Children holding hands, walking with the wind. That is America to me.” What do you think he means by this?
Describe his concept of a “Beloved Community”.
Chapter 4: “The Boy from Troy” p.56-70
In this chapter young John Lewis meets Dr. King for the first time. What was the purpose of the meeting?
Describe John Lewis’ impressions of Dr. King.
Chapter 11: “We March Today” p. 202-232
Read about the March on Washington, Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” and explain why John Lewis’ speech was considered so controversial.
How was the controversy resolved?
What is your reaction to Lewis’ decision to change speech?
For you personally, what did you find most interesting or moving in this chapter about the March on Washington?
Chapter 13: “Feel Angry with Me” p. 261-277
In this chapter Lewis talks about “Mississippi Freedom Summer.” Who was involved? What were their goals? What was their plan of action to accomplish these goals? Were they able to reach their goals?
Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner where only a few years older than you in 1964. Describe what happened to them in June of 1964?
On page 282 Lewis states, “….we emerged from Mississippi Summer with a purpose, a goal, an object of hope.” What does he mean by this?
Chapter 15: “Into Selma” p.300-332 (Optional)
What internal issues was SNCC dealing with in the fall of 1964?
What was the opinion of the different SNCC members regarding the future of SNCC? Stokley Carmichael, Bob Moses and John Lewis.
Why was SNCC rejecting the beliefs of Dr. King?
Describe John Lewis’ feelings when Dr. King became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Why did John Lewis feel the need to go to Selma (even though SNCC decided against participating)?
What issues were happening in Selma with regards to Sheriff Jim Clark?
Why was John Lewis arrested in Selma?
Why was the need for a Voting Rights Act in 1965 so important to Dr. King and what was the response from LBJ? How did Dr. King react to LBJ’s response?
What did G.R.O.W stand for and why was this sentiment shared among African Americans and other members of the community?
Describe the tension between SCLC and SNCC; why do you think there was so much visible tension?
How did John Lewis feel about the SCLC coming into Selma where SNCC was already established and working?
Who is Joe Smitherman? What are some of his beliefs and opinions regarding African American people? What does he say about Dr. King and how does that make you feel?
Describe Jim Clark and his posse. How do their actions make you feel?
Why was Selma considered a mass movement? Who are the masses that are being mentioned?
Where was SCLC headquarters in Selma?
Why was waiting an effective tool in Selma, according to John Lewis? Does violence erupt instantaneously when SNCC and SCLC are protesting? Why, or why not?
Describe John Lewis’ reaction when Dr. King gets punched in Selma. Why was his reaction so out of character?
Describe the violence that happens on January 18, 1965 at the hands of Sheriff Jim Clark.
Did Dr. King stay for the entire Selma campaign? Why, or why not?
Describe the fight between Jim Clark and Annie Lee Cooper. Why did this particular situation play right into the hands of SNCC?
What tactic did the SCLC use in Selma and other areas that was quite controversial? Do you think this is a good tactic? Why, or why not?
Why did Malcolm X come to Selma? What is the ultimate message that he conveys and how does it make you feel? (Read between the lines, there is a deeper meaning to his words.)
Why was Sheriff Clark in the hospital and what is ironic about that? How do the actions of the children make you feel?
Describe the March in Marion, Alabama. What was the purpose of this march and why was this march more dangerous than the marches in Selma?
Jimmie Lee Jackson’s name is on the Civil Rights Memorial which you will be visiting. Describe what happened to him in Marion and how this makes you feel.
How does the idea of marching from Selma to Montgomery occur after the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson? What action does James Bevel want to take and why?
What was John Lewis’ reaction to James Bevel’s plan?
Why does the idea of the Selma to Montgomery march not sit well with SNCC?
Why does Lewis decide to march from Selma to Montgomery even though his organization (SNCC) does not?
Chapter 16: “Bloody Sunday” p. 335-362
As you read this chapter, think about for what you would be willing to put yourself on the line.
Why does Dr. King not march on March 7th, the day that will become known as Bloody Sunday? How do SCLC members react? What is your reaction to his decision?
Why was the March 7th march a somber one according to Lewis? Describe the number of people who were there and who they were.
What did the marchers see as they came to the top of the Edmund Pettus Bridge?
Who was at the front line of the march and what did Major Cloud tell the marchers after they had crossed the bridge?
How much time were the marchers given to disperse and what did they do when they were told to leave?
Describe what the troopers did to the marchers and, more specifically, what happened to John Lewis? How does this make you feel?
How does the New York Times respond to Bloody Sunday?
How many troopers were attacking at Selma and under whose orders? How many marchers were injured?
Describe John Lewis’ condition when he speaks to the marchers the evening of Bloody Sunday. What does he say and how does it make you feel?
What was so ironic about the television show that was interrupted to bring the news account of Bloody Sunday? Explain this irony in detail.
Why was Bloody Sunday so different from the struggles in Birmingham according to John Lewis?
What was the response from the people all over America regarding what happened in Selma?
What were the reasons for the infighting between SNCC and SCLC after Bloody?
Why did CORE and SNCC come to Selma after Bloody Sunday?
What do you think of George Wallace’s comments regarding Bloody Sunday and how do they make you feel?
Why were many marchers upset with Dr. King after the attack on the Edmund Pettus Bridge? Why did Dr. King act the way he did and why did that confuse people? How did Jim Forman and SNCC react?
Describe Federal Judge Johnson and his reasons for issuing or not issuing an injunction (court order). Did this help or hurt the campaign in Selma?
Describe the BIG PICTURE according to John Lewis when he is released from the hospital. Is he an optimist or a pessimist? Why?
Reverend James Reeb in on the Civil Rights Memorial. Describe what happened to him and how it makes you feel.
Describe the irony of the relationship between Judge Johnson and George Wallace (on page 350). Did these two men like each other? How far back do these men go and what does their relationship say about Judge Johnson?
Was Governor George Wallace responsible for the attack on the Edmund Pettus Bridge? What does Col. Al Lingo think?
Describe President Johnson’s response to the Bloody Sunday attack. What did Governor Wallace and President Johnson meet about and what was the result of their meeting?
Describe President Johnson’s words when sharing with America that he was going to ask Congress for a VOTING RIGHTS ACT. How does reading this make you feel about LBJ and how did it make John Lewis feel when he heard the President’s words?
What part of LBJ’s speech moved you, if any?
What was Dr. King’s reaction to President Johnson’s speech and how did Jim Forman react? What does this say about the split between SCLC and SNCC?
Why does Jim Forman surprise and disgust Dr. King and others with his speech regarding Gov. Wallace and Pres. Johnson? Do you agree with Forman’s words, or are the inappropriate?
Describe Judge Johnson’s decision regarding whether the marchers have the right to march all the way to Montgomery.
What equipment did the marchers need to march to the Alabama State Capitol on March 21, 1965?
How many miles was the march from Selma to Montgomery and how much protection was provided this time by the Federal and State governments?
Who was in front line of the march on March 21st? Describe the people who marched that day.
About how many miles did the marchers cover per day? What did Judge Johnson’s order limit the amount of marchers during certain periods?
Why did John Lewis go back to Selma each night during the march to Montgomery?
Describe the concert the night before the marchers reached Montgomery. Which celebrities were there and what was the overall feeling that night?
How many people made the last leg of the march to Montgomery (and how far out were they from St. Jude’s to Montgomery)?
Why did people dress like Dr. King on the final leg of the march and how does reading this make you feel?
How does John Lewis describe walking into Montgomery, how does he feel?
Read Dr. King’s speech on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery (p.360) and describe how it makes you feel. You can read the entire speech in your book Testament of Hope on page 227.
Describe John Lewis’ visit with President Johnson after the President had signed the VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965. According to Lewis this law had “teeth.” Why?
Who did LBJ give pens to that day after signing the VOTING RIGHTS ACT? If you were John Lewis, how would you feel?
Lewis states that for many people the Civil Rights Movement the Selma March was the end of then- faith in the Movement. What does Lewis mean by this and how was the murder of Viola Liuzzo’s part of this statement?
****Many historians call the March on Washington (where Dr. King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech) the high-water mark of the movement. Which do you think is the most important part of the Civil Rights Movement and why?
After reading about Bloody Sunday, what do you think of your country and what it stands for?
If you could have been in Selma in the month of March 1965 what role would you hope you could have played? Would you put yourself on the line for the right to vote as many did in Selma and all over Alabama?
Chapter 18: “Why?” Start on p.403 and stop on p.413
John Lewis was with Robert Kennedy the night Dr. King was assassinated and we will hear RFK’s extemporaneous speech that April 4, 1968.
Read RFK’s speech after the assassination of Dr. King. Pick one line from his speech and explain why it is meaningful to you.
How did the crowd react to RFK’s speech? How did Lewis react?
What was the reaction of the nation to the death of Dr. King?