This Day in Black History: July 17, 1935

Civil rights activist Lawrence Guyot was born.

Posted: 07/17/2013 12:00 AM EDT

Civil rights activist Lawrence Guyot was born on July 17, 1935, in Pass Christian, Mississippi. His life was marked by severe injustice as he was subjected to savage beatings as a young civil rights activist who laid the framework for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In 1963, when civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and two others were arrested for entering an all-white bus station in Winona, Mississippi, Guyot went to bail them out. He inquired about rough treatment while in jail and was subsequently beaten by nine police officers with the butts of their guns. They made him strip naked, threatened to burn his genitals and continued the abuse until a doctor advised the officers to stop. Guyot was then taken into a cell and beaten again.

As a college student, Guyot led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and organized African-Americans in Mississippi to vote. In 1971 Guyot received a law degree from Rutgers University, and then moved to Washington, D.C, where he worked for the election of Marion Barry as mayor.

“There is nothing like having risked your life with people over something immensely important to you,” he said in 2004. Guyot died at his home in Mount Rainer, Maryland, in 2012 at the age of 73.  

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(Photo: AP Photo/Jim Bourdier, File)