Tag Archives: understanding

Common Ground: Representative John Lewis and Elwin Wilson

posted by GeoT


Two men come together in the spirit of forgiveness and understanding

In May 1961, John Lewis was a 21-year-old seminary student and member of the Freedom Riders. That was the month that Lewis was beaten for attempting to enter the waiting area of a bus station in Rock Hill, South Carolina marked “Whites Only.” Elwin Wilson was a part of the mob that attacked Representative Lewis.

Forty-eight years later, in January 2009, the two men met again in Lewis’s congressional office. Elwin Wilson apologized to Rep. Lewis and expressed remorse for his long held hatred. Rep. Lewis accepted the apology and offered his forgiveness without hesitation.

The two men hope that their reconciliation will inspire others who took part in Civil Rights Era violence to come forward, and work to heal the wounds of racism in the United States.

John Lewis has been the U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since 1986. He grew up on his family’s farm in Alabama and attended segregated public schools. Rep. Lewis was a nationally recognized leader of the Civil Rights Movement and has remained at the vanguard of progressive social movements in the United States. Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, John Lewis has remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence.

Elwin Hope Wilson has lived in Rock Hill, South Carolina for most of his life. He served in the U.S. Air Force, and worked as a welder and heavy equipment operator for many years. Wilson, who took part in KKK activities, now speaks out about racial bigotry and intolerance.

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Filed under African-Americans, Change, Hate Crimes, History, Racism, Uncategorized, Violence