In ‘Eyes’ Videos, Congressman Lewis Talks about Freedom Rides, Sit-Ins

Video interviews with U.S. Congressman John Lewis from the acclaimed “Eyes on the Prize” television series are now available on the YouTube channel of the Libraries’ Film & Media Archive. Much of the material was unavailable for viewing until now. The interviews with Lewis are part of the Film & Media Archive’s collection of recordings that Henry Hampton and his production company, Blackside, assembled for “Eyes on the Prize” but did not include in the final series.

Lewis has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since 1986. He will deliver the 2016 Commencement address at WashU on May 20, when he will be presented with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from the university.

Created in 1979, the interviews feature Lewis discussing such topics as the Freedom Rides, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Nashville sit-ins. A civil rights pioneer, Lewis participated in the Freedom Rides and was instrumental in organizing the March on Washington in 1963.

“A group of young white men came in,” Lewis recounts in one video about a 1960 sit-in at a Nashville store, “and they started pulling and beating primarily the young women, putting lighted cigarettes down their backs and their hair and really beating people and in a short time police officials came in and placed all of us under arrest. Not a single member of the white group, the people that were opposing our sit-in down at the lunch counter were arrested. We all left out of that store singing ‘We Shall Overcome.'”

The digitization and reassembly of the interviews was made possible with the help of funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission’s Digital Dissemination of Historical Records program. For more information about “Eyes on the Prize” and the Henry Hampton Collection, go here.

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