The censored speech of John Lewis [September 9, 1963]
We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud
of. For hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here. They
have no money for their transportation, for they are receiving
starvation wages—or no wages at all.
In good conscience, we cannot support the administration's civil
rights bill; for it is too little, and too late. There's not one
thing in the bill that will protect our people from police brutality.
This bill will not protect young children and old women from police
dogs and fire hoses, for engaging in peaceful demonstrations. This
bill will not protect the citizens in Danvllle, Virginia, who must
live in constant fear in a police state. This bill will not protect
the hundreds of people who have been arrested on trumped-up charges.
What about the three young men in Americas, Georgia, who face the
death penalty for engaging in peaceful protest?
The voting section of this bill will not help thousands of black
citizens who want to vote. It will not help the citizens of
Mississippi, of Alabama, and Georgia, who are qualified to vote, but
lack a sixth grade education, ‘ One man, one vote’ is the
African cry. It is ours, too. (It must be ours.)
People have been forced to leave their homes because they dared to
exercise their right to resister to vote. What is in the bill that
will protect the homeless and starving people of this nation? What is
there in this bill to insure the equality of a maid who earns $5 a
week in the home of a family whose income is $100,000 a year?
For the first time in 100 years this nation is being awakened to the
fact that segregation is evil and that it must be destroyed in all
forms. Your presence today proves that you have been aroused to the
point of action.
We are now involved in a serious revolution. This nation is still a
place of cheap political leaders who build their career on immoral
compromises and ally themselves with open forms of political, economic
and social exploitation. What political leader here can stand up and
say ‘My party is the party of principles? The party
of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also
the party of Goldwater. Where is our party?
In some parts of the South we work in the fields from sun-up to
sun-down for $12 a week. In Albany, Georgia, nine of our leaders have
been indicted not by Dixicrats but by the Federal Government for
peaceful, protest. But what did the Federal Government do when
Albany's Deputy Sheriff beat Attorney C. B. Kine and left him
half dead? What did the Federal Government do when local police
officials kicked and assaulted the pregnant wife of Slater King, and
she lost her baby?
It seems to me that the Albany indictment is part of a conspiracy on
the part of the Federal Government and local politicians in the
interest of expediency.
Moreover, we have learned—and you—should know—since
we are here for Jobs and Freedom—that within the past ten days a
spokesmen for the Administration appeared in a secret session before
the committee that's writing the civil-rights bill and opposed and
has almost killed a provision that would have guaranteed in voting
suits, for the first time, a fair federal district judge. And, I
might add, this Admistration's bill or any other civil rights
bill—as the 1960 civil-rights act—will be totally
worthless when administered by racist judges, many of whom have been
consistently appointed by President Kennedy.
I want to know, which side is the Federal Government on?
The revolution is at hand, and we must free ourselves of the chains of
political and economic slavery. The non-violent revolution is saying,
‘We will not wait for the courts to act, for we have been
waiting for hundreds of years. We will not wait for the President, the
Justice Department, nor Congress, but we will take matters into our
own hands and create a source of power, outside of any national
structure that could and would assure us a victory.’ To those
who have said, ‘Be patient and wait’, we must say that,
‘Patience is a dirty and nasty word’. We cannot be
patient, we do not want to be free gradually, we want our freedom, and
we want it now. We cannot depend on any political party, for both the
Democrats and the Republicans have betrayed the basic principles of
the Declaration of Independence.
We all recognize the fact that if any radical social, political and
economic changes are to take place in our society, the people, the
masses, must bring them about. In the struggle we must seek more than
more civil rights; we must work for the community love, peace, and
true brotherhood. Our minds, souls, and hearts cannot rest until
freedom and justice exist for all the people.
The revolution is a serious one, Mr. Kennedy is trying to take the
revolution out of the street and put it in the courts. Listen
Mr. Kennedy, Listen Mr. Congressmen, Listen fellow citizens, the black
masses are on the march for jobs and freedom, and we must say to the
politicians that there won't be a ‘cooling-off’
All of us must get in the revolution. Get in and stay in the streets
of every city, every village, and every hamlet of this nation, until
true Freedom comes, until the revolution is complete. In the Delta of
Mississippi, in southwest Georgia, in Alabama, Harlem, Chicago,
Detroit, Philadelphia and all over this nation. The black masses are
on the march!
We won't stop now. All of the forces of Eastland, Barnett,
Wallace, and Thurmond won't stop this revolution. The time will
come when we will not confine our marching to Washington. We will
march through the South, through the Heart of Dixie, the way Sherman
did. We shall pursue our own ‘scorched earth’ policy and
burn Jim Crow to the ground—non-violently. We shall fragment
the South into a thousand pieces and put them back together in the
image of democracy. We will make the action of the past few months
look petty. And I say to you, WAKE UP AMERICA!