Five summers ago, at San Diego Comic-Con International, Rep. John Lewis donned the type of clothes and gear he was wearing a half-century earlier when he was beaten trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. — the day he thought he was going to die.
The journey from 1965 Selma to 2015 San Diego was long, but the Georgia Democrat’s belief remained steadfast: For human rights to be defended, each succeeding generation must learn the history of how they are won.
With that mission in mind, Lewis, then the author of a graphic novel in his 70s (his latest illustrated book had been released a half-year earlier), walked onto the floor of the 2015 Comic-Con — that teeming festival of comics and pop culture — to cosplay as his 25-year-old self: trench coat, shirt and tie, and a backpack that held fruit, a toothbrush and books.
In 1965, on what became known as “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Lewis — who died Friday at 80 — led about 600 nonviolent marchers into the maw of state troopers’ nightsticks and tear gas. In 2015, to summon that historic memory, Lewis led a procession through the large bayside convention hall, holding a child’s hand in each of his. “I felt very, very moved just by being with the kids,” he said. “As you know, the civil rights movement was often led by the children and the young people.”
We have lost a great man.