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19 Photos Of Rep. John Lewis's Lifelong Fight For Equality

From leading the civil rights movement alongside Martin Luther King Jr. to supporting LGBTQ rights, immigration reform, and protests against police brutality, John Lewis made the pursuit of justice his life's goal.

Posted on July 18, 2020, at 3:33 p.m. ET

Joshua Roberts / Getty Images

Rep. John Lewis at a press conference about the Voting Rights Advancement Act, Feb. 26, 2019.

Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a leader of the civil rights movement who went on to serve in Congress for three decades, died Friday after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December.

A flood of tributes poured in from politicians, activists, and the public. The Congressional Black Caucus called Lewis a legend, an icon, and one of Atlanta's "most fearless leaders."

Lewis was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, a group of Black and white activists who put their lives on the line to challenge segregated interstate travel. Their activism had a profound impact on the civil rights movement, and Lewis went on to become a leading figure in the movement alongside Martin Luther King Jr., enduring violent beatings and dozens of arrests to fight for Black Americans' voting rights.

Lewis returned to Selma every year to commemorate the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the New York Times reported.

As a member of Congress, Lewis continued speaking out against racial injustice and police brutality. He was also an early and vocal supporter of LGBTQ rights in Congress at a time when broad support for marriage for same-sex couples did not exist.

Just weeks before his death, Lewis expressed support for the nationwide protests against police killings of unarmed Black people. Lewis said the video of a police officer crushing George Floyd's neck with his knee for nearly nine minutes made him cry.

"To see people from all over the world taking to the streets, to the roadways, to stand up, to speak up, to speak out, to do what I call 'getting in trouble,'" he said in a CBS interview. "And with a sense of determination and commitment and dedication, there will be no turning back."

Here's a look back at Lewis's lifelong activism and his work championing equality.

Rwt / AP

May 23, 1961: From front to back: John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy, and James Farmer hold a news conference in Montgomery, Alabama, to announce that the Freedom Rides will continue. Lewis, who was beaten, has a bandage on his head.

Unknown / AP

March 7, 1965: A state trooper (far right) swings a billy club at Lewis (on the right in the foreground), who was then the chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, to break up a march in Selma, Alabama. Lewis sustained a fractured skull.

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March 19, 1965: Lewis (third from left, holding a bottle), Martin Luther King Jr. (center), and Ralph Abernathy (second from right) march from Selma to Montgomery.

Dave Martin / AP

March 4, 1990: Thousands of demonstrators, led by Lewis, Jesse Jackson, and other civil rights leaders, march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on the 25th anniversary of the original Selma-to-Montgomery march.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Aug. 22, 2003: Coretta Scott King (right) and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (center) console Lewis at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the uncovering of a granite landing commemorating the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, DC.

Erik S. Lesser / AP

Jan. 10, 2004: John Lewis and his son John Miles Lewis (left) at their home in Atlanta.

Chris Maddaloni / AP

May 2, 2006: Lewis (far left) speaks at a press conference with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to announce support for reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act for an additional 25 years.

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

June 6, 2006: Lewis, one of the first members of Congress who spoke out in support of LGBTQ rights, speaks at a press conference ahead of a Senate vote on marriage equality.

Tim Sloan / Getty Images

April 27, 2009: Lewis is led away in handcuffs by a Secret Service officer during an act of civil disobedience outside the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, DC, while protesting the Sudanese government's ongoing genocide in Darfur.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Feb. 15, 2011: President Barack Obama presents Lewis with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to civilians, at the White House.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Oct. 8, 2013: Lewis is arrested by Capitol Police after blocking a street with fellow supporters of immigration reform in Washington, DC.

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June 22, 2016: Lewis (center, on the ground) leads a sit-in of more than 200 Democrats to demand a vote on gun control measures following a deadly shooting at Pulse, a queer nightclub in Orlando, that killed 49 people.

Zach Gibson / Getty Images

July 7, 2016: Lewis speaks to protesters in Washington, DC, demonstrating against the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

Rick Diamond / Getty Images

Nov. 19, 2016: Lewis looks at images and his arrest record from 1963 for leading a nonviolent sit-in at Nashville's segregated lunch counters.

Hyosub Shin / AP

March 24, 2018: Lewis leads a March for Our Lives protest against gun violence in Atlanta.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Dec. 6, 2019: Lewis speaks at an event before the passage of the Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

March 1, 2020: Lewis speaks to the crowd at the Edmund Pettus Bridge crossing reenactment, marking the 55th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Alabama.

Khalid Naji-allah / AP

June 7, 2020: Lewis looks over a street in Washington, DC, that's been renamed "Black Lives Matter Plaza."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.