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Donald Trump Fails John Lewis History Lesson

I guess no one familiar with the shenanigans of Donald Trump should be too surprised about his ongoing social media habit of attacking anyone who he feels has slighted him. This past weekend, the president-elect took to his Twitter account to criticize U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who made the argument that he saw Trump’s election as “illegitimate” for several reasons.

Trump brashly referred to Lewis as a person who was all “talk, talk, talk and no action. Sad!” Trump further chastised Lewis for “doing very little” to rectify the problems that afflicted his constituencies. For the record, Lewis represents one of Atlanta’s districts that are more prosperous.

The fact that Trump would have the unmitigated gall to allude to John Lewis as being incompetent, ineffective and useless to his constituency is beyond insulting. Lewis put his physical and mental well-being in jeopardy multiple times. Who among us can forget the indelible memories of the horrific violence that was unleashed on Lewis — who sustained a fractured skull — and his fellow protesters by Alabama state troopers as they attempted to exercise their right to march for the right to vote? The sadistic scene eventually became known as “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965.

Later that evening, several television networks interrupted their regularly scheduled programming to inform public of the chilling carnage that had occurred earlier that day in Selma, Alabama. Interestingly, The ABC Sunday Night Movie that week was Judgment at Nuremberg. Talk about the irony!

Public outrage was immediate. Educational foundations, religious organizations, politicians, and private citizens from all walks of life flooded the White House with letters and telegrams to urge and, in some cases, demand that Congress move to ensure that American Negroes (that was the term used in 1965) would not be disenfranchised. Something that should have been a basic right from the outset. Intense public pressure culminated in Congress passing the Voting Rights Act that was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965.

That fact is that, if it were not for people like John Lewis, it would have taken much longer for Blacks, particularly in the South, to gain those protections of the right to vote. Thus, millions of American Negroes would have continued to live under a system of detestable, political apartheid. Rep. Lewis, and many others who marched with him, embodied an undeniable and unmistakable level of courage, determination and dignity that made it possible for future generations to enjoy specific liberties that some of us take for granted.

The majority of Black people alive today, including myself, were not even born when Lewis, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Ralph Abernathy, Juanita Abernathy, C. Delores Tucker, Hosea Williams, C.T. Vivian, Amelia Boynton Robinson, and many others were singing, praying, marching, strategizing, sacrificing, and putting their lives and livelihoods in jeopardy to ensure that so many others who were politically, socially and economically disenfranchised could exercise a fundamental right that was supposed to be guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States.

For Donald Trump to refer to John Lewis and, by extension, others like him who endured horrific levels of wanton violence, routine death threats, cattle prods, foreclosure of property, poll taxes, oppressive sharecropping systems, entrenched legal discrimination, and numerous forms of inhuman indignities on a regular basis as “all talk and no action” is callous and despicable. Moreover, such accusations are blatantly false. It is a major insult to Lewis and others who forfeited so much without sacrificing their pride and principles. This is in stark contrast to a man like Trump who has engaged in discriminatory practices and made racist and xenophobic comments.

Trump should be honored that Rep. Lewis would even look in his direction. John Lewis is a living legend who history will undoubtedly reflect favorably upon.

Dr. Elwood Watson is a professor of history, African-American studies and gender studies at East Tennessee State University.


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