By JAY REEVES, Associated Press
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Nearly 20 members of Congress began an annual pilgrimage Friday through Alabama’s civil rights sites without the person who inspired so many to attend in recent years: the late Rep. John Lewis.
From 1998 to 2020, Lewis led the events, organized by the Washington-based Faith & Politics Institute, and her spirit was felt at an opening service at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, where four black girls are died in a racist bombing in September 1965.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland who has been on the pilgrimage 16 times, said it was different to be in Alabama without Lewis, who grew up in the state and was beaten. by state troopers as he led suffrage marchers in Selma in March. 7, 1965. The annual trip coincides with the anniversary of the attack.
“What I loved about him was that he called me brother and he meant it,” Hoyer said in an interview. “It wasn’t just ‘Hey bro.’ It was a, ‘You are my brother.’ And I called him brother.
Eighteen members of Congress, mostly Democrats, have planned to attend the pilgrimage, which will include stops at the National Lynching Memorial, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s First Church in Montgomery and the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where Lewis was attacked in 1965. .
One of Lewis’ last public appearances was at Pettus Bridge in March 2020, months before his death.
During the service at the 16th Street Baptist, the Reverend Arthur Price told the story of the bombing and its aftermath, including inspiring the civil rights movement and global recognition of the horror of what happened. has passed. A stained glass window donated by the people of Wales recalls the bombardment and its impact.
“The bomb that went off here was literally heard around the world,” he said.
Three Ku Klux Klan members were convicted of murder in the explosion and died in prison.