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Context for John Lewis speech

John Lewis was the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at the time of the March on Washington. The youngest of the "Big Six," (as the heads of a group of major civil rights organizations were known), Lewis wanted to use the platform of the March provocatively, to push the public to take stronger action. After a draft of his original speech was circulated, President Kennedy's administration and some of the March's leadership demanded that Lewis change his speech. Lewis and other student leaders protested this censorship, but ultimately, a personal intervention from respected civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph persuaded Lewis to tone down his speech.

Note: Audio of John Lewis' speech from a live radio broadcast can be downloaded from NPR. After his speech, one of the radio commentators notes that changes were made in the speech from the prepared text given to the press earlier that day.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Context for John Lewis speech." (Viewed on January 21, 2018) <>.


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