This Day in Black History: Feb. 21, 1940

Congressman and activist John Lewis was born on Feb. 21, 1940.

Congressman John Lewis, born on Feb. 21, 1940, has been the Democratic U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district since 1987 and also serves as dean of the Georgia congressional delegation. Known as one of the "Big Six" leaders of the civil rights movement, Lewis has made it his life's work to protect human rights.

Growing up, Lewis participated in sit-ins, non-violent protests, the 1961 Freedom Rides and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He also served as one of the founding members of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee and was elected chairman of the organization in 1963, a position he held for three years.

RELATED: John Lewis Dead at 80; Civil Rights Icon and Congressman Passes After Pancreatic Cancer Fight

His tenacity for civil rights — despite being beaten, arrested dozens of times and tear-gassed by mounted troopers — earned him wide respect both as a young man fighting through segregation and in Congress.

Lewis died on July 17, 2020 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer at age 80. 

This year, John Lewis would have turned 82 years old. BET is wishing the congressman and civil rights hero a very happy birthday!

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