WASHINGTON – On Thursday, Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05) secured House passage of her bipartisan, bicameral legislation, the John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship Act, which creates the John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship within the Fulbright Scholarship Program. The fellowship will support scholars who want to study nonviolent civil rights movements abroad. Congresswoman Nancy Mace (SC-1) co-lead introduction of the bill in the House of Representatives. Senators John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
Click here for the text of the John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship Act.
Click here to watch Congresswoman Williams’ floor speech in support of the John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship Act. Her remarks as prepared for delivery can be found at the end of this release.
Congresswoman Williams (GA-05) said:
“Congressman Lewis was my friend, mentor, and predecessor. He was also a hero across the globe with his message of nonviolent social change inspiring people to get into Good Trouble in countless countries. Congressman Lewis also knew that America is the world’s moral leader. By creating the John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship Act, we are helping future generations spread Congressman Lewis’ moral clarity well beyond our borders. Having bipartisan, bicameral support for the John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship Act demonstrates that Congressman Lewis’ message resonates two years after his passing. I look forward to members of both chambers of Congress channeling our inner John Lewis and quickly passing the John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship Act.”
Congresswoman Mace (SC-1) said:
“Congressman Lewis was a true trailblazer and fighter for civil rights in our country. His dedication to nonviolent civil protest is something we can all learn from in our contentious times. As the ranking member on the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, I can think of no better way to honor his legacy than the creation of a scholarship program to study the work he devoted his life to.”
Senator Hickenlooper (D-CO) said:
“There’s no better way to honor the giant that John Lewis was than to support young people following in his trailblazing footsteps.”
Senator Ossoff (D-GA) said:
“Congressman Lewis’ life-long commitment to civil rights, nonviolence, and universal human dignity remain essential to local, national, and global progress. No one’s ideas or approach to public life have had more of an impact on me than Congressman Lewis’. This bipartisan legislation will ensure the Congressman’s vision for a better world remains an inspiration for future generations.”
Linda Earley Chastang Esq., President and CEO of the John and Lillian Miles Lewis Foundation said:
“There is no more fitting a tribute to Congressman Lewis’ legacy or memorial to his impact on social and political change around the world. People all over the world have been inspired by the tactics of the Civil Rights Movement in our country to bring change in their own countries. Congressman Lewis observed that: ‘They were not convinced by our bombs, by our missiles or by our guns. They were inspired by the ability of non-violent direct action to bring peaceful change, dramatic change in the most powerful nation on Earth.’ The bill introduced by you in the House and John Hickenlooper in the Senate does exactly what we would envision: bring together and train the next generation of activists and advocates around the world on the history and use of nonviolence as the tool for change.”
Congresswoman Williams’ speech in support of the John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship Act as prepared for delivery:
I rise today in support of H.R. 8681, The John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship Act of 2022.
Following in the footsteps of Congressman John Lewis is no easy feat. He was a friend and mentor to many of us. He was known as the conscience of this body. I often tell people that while I’ll never fill his shoes, I strive to carry out his legacy daily.
It is my honor to ensure my friend, mentor, and predecessor’s legacy lives on through the John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship within the Fulbright Program, which would give scholars an opportunity to study both the inspiration and the impacts of the Civil Rights Movement internationally.
The John and Lilian Miles Lewis Foundation has been working hard to launch this program as a tribute to Congressman Lewis’s impact on social and political change around the world.
Congressman Lewis himself was shaped by his study of nonviolent civil rights movements from around the world, most notably, the philosophy and tactics of Mahatma Gandhi, whose very words were “it is either non-violence or non existence.”
And of course, people across the globe have been inspired by the tactics of the United States’ Civil Rights Movement, many led by Congressman Lewis himself. From the lunch counter sit-ins of the early 1960s, to the 1961 Freedom Rides to the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus bridge, Mr. Lewis taught the world that the most powerful way to bend the moral arc towards justice is rooted in the discipline of nonviolence.
But for all of his experiences and impact at home, Congressman Lewis always wished he would have had the opportunity to study abroad.
Creating The John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship is a full-circle tribute: sending scholars to study Congressman Lewis’ inspirations and impacts around the world in his name. We hope this program will unlock a powerful opportunity for students who, like Congressman Lewis, would not otherwise have an opportunity to do research across the globe.
The John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship will be a beacon for the importance of nonviolence, and I look forward to the incredible academic work and exchange this fellowship will support.
Thank you and I yield back.
Congresswoman Nikema Williams proudly serves Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District. Congresswoman Williams serves on the exclusive Financial Services Committee where she is Vice Chair of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the Select Committee for the Modernization of Congress. She is Freshman Class President and Co-Chairs the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus. Congresswoman Williams builds on the Fifth District’s legacy as the cradle of the civil rights movement as a champion of voting rights, closing the racial wealth gap, and ensuring the promise of America for all–regardless of their ZIP code or bank account.