Rep. John Lewis Tears Up At The National Book Awards, Calls The Experience 'Unreal'

The definition of progress.

As one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, George Rep. John Lewis is always trying to ensure that the next generation remembers the lessons of history. That is why the 76-year-old activist teamed up with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell to pen March: Book Three, a memoir written for children about the fight for racial equality during the 1960s.

On Wednesday night, at the 67th annual National Book Awards, Lewis won a medal for young people's literature for his work on the book.

March: Book Three details the struggle that 25-year-old Lewis and other activists in the Civil Rights Movement encountered in the fall of 1963 with their nonviolent revolution.

When Lewis accepted the award on Wednesday night, he spoke about how "unreal" the moment was, and he thanked an elementary school teacher for encouraging him to read more. Then, he reportedly began to cry.

If you don't understand how surreal the book award is for Lewis, then perhaps Wall Street Journal book reporter Jennifer Maloney can explain in this one awesome tweet:


During his emotional acceptance speech, Lewis retold the story about growing up in rural Alabama during the 1950s.

"I remember in 1956 when I was 16 years old, some of my brothers and sisters and cousins went down to the public library and tried to get our library cards," Lewis said. "We were told that libraries were for whites only and not for coloreds. To come here and receive this award — it's too much."

Lewis' National Book Award is a tribute to how far America has come — and a reason why we still have to keep fighting for more equality.

Cover image via Joseph Sohm /


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.