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Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement

4.56  ·  Rating details ·  2,926 ratings  ·  403 reviews
An eloquent, epic firsthand account of the civil rights movement by a man who lived it-an American hero whose courage, vision, and dedication helped change history. The son of an Alabama sharecropper, and now a sixth-term United States Congressman, John Lewis has led an extraordinary life, one that found him at the epicenter of the civil rights movement in the late '50s an ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published October 18th 1999 by Mariner Books (first published 1998)
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HEADLINE -- January 31, 2021

Georgia County To Replace Confederate Monument With John Lewis Statue


John Lewis has died. His favorite poem says it all:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the
Michael O'Brien
Dec 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a memoir by Congressman John Lewis dealing mostly with his experiences as a civil rights leader in the Students Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). This is an outstanding history of a difficult time in American history, the Civil Rights Era, that, sadly, is increasingly forgotten or diminished in the minds of succeeding generations.

John Lewis grew up in a large family in southern Alabama in grinding poverty. A very, very tough upbringing in a sharecropper family whose way of life
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: Howard
This autobiography is subtitled A Memoir of the Movement and, yes, the story of the Civil Rights Movement is the main focus; but it’s also more than that. Lewis begins with his childhood, his life with his hardworking parents in Alabama. He feels different from his parents, from his siblings, he wants more. He hides until he can catch the school bus, instead of working in the cotton fields. He awakens to what that ‘more’ is the moment he hears Martin Luther King, Jr., on the radio preaching a “s ...more
Some people think John Lewis is "all talk" and has "never done anything" but those people are idiots and should be treated as such.

John Lewis is a Congressman, Civil-Rights Icon, Husband, Father, and Servant For Justice.
John Lewis did more before the age of 25 than most people will do if they live to be 125. As a college student Congressman Lewis led efforts to desegregate Nashville through sit-ins. His guidelines became the rules by which all other nonviolent activists in the civil rights move
Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement written by civil rights icon John Lewis in 1998, was a compelling look at the history of the civil rights movement from one who tirelessly devoted his life to ensuring freedom and justice for all. Having lived through the tumultuous 1950's and 1960's, this stunning memoir was a testament to the resilience, courage and resolve of all of those dedicated to the cause of the civil rights movement and with that vision, helped to change the history of th ...more
Jan 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dad-recommended
Want to know more about the Civil Rights movement? Want to hear about
it from a perspective other than Martin Luther King Jr.s? This is the
book! Reading this book I realized how little I really know about the
Civil Rights movement. I don't remember huge discussions about this
life changing and country changing movement in school. That should change!

John Lewis is a contemporary of MLK. He is the son of sharecroppers
and part of a very large family all of whom worked in the fields
starting at 5 or 6 ye
Mikey B.
John Lewis is a true American hero. He grew up dirt poor in rural Alabama. He left home for religious studies in Nashville in 1958, but quickly became involved in the burgeoning civil rights movement. John Lewis always had an innate sense of right from wrong – and he knew segregation was evil and anti-humanitarian. He became increasingly involved as a pacifist protester. He was influenced as well by the actions and non-violent doctrine of Dr. Martin Luther King who a few years before had succeed ...more
Dec 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. Having found the graphic novel, March, to lack sufficient detail, I wanted to read more about John Lewis. This personal memoir of the civil rights movement was authored by John Lewis, who played a central role as a Freedom Rider, head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and lifelong activist. John was raised in a large cotton-picking family in Alabama, and was fortunate to earn a college scholarship to become a preacher and move to Nashville. In college, John quic ...more
Apr 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is probably the best movement memoir (from any movement) that I have ever read. John Lewis is just the kind of solid person that every movement needs more of: principled but not dogmatic; combining patience for the people with impatience for injustice; focused on getting results more than getting credit; stodgy rather than flashy; deeply aware that it is the masses who actually make history; always prioritizing organizing over getting mass media publicity. He is not without pride, and he is ...more
Dec 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book was amazing and a great history lesson. I'm a congressional staffer and I've always had to contain my excitement whenever I passed Rep. John Lewis in the hallway. I knew that he marched with MLK during the civil rights movement and that was enough to earn my eternal respect and admiration. I finally got around to reading his book and was even more amazed. He began working in the civil rights movement when he was a sophomore in college. He was literally at every major event in the civil ...more
Dewin Anguas Barnette
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There are not enough words in the English language for me to describe how wonderful this book is. It is not only, by far, the best book on the Civil Rights Movement I have read as of yet, it is the best book I have read. The best thing about it is that it is completely honest. It is straightforward and does not cast a dreamy glow over everyone involved as the majority of other books do. I learned about the differences in opinion among the different organizations, and how they were all necessary ...more
Jul 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book should be required reading for everybody, especially students and those with power. The Beloved Community should be the goal of all people. John Lewis is an amazing man and it is a wonder that he is not better known in today's world. He is a hero and should be treated as such. ...more
Jan 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I've never read anything like this before, a history of the Civil Rights Movement from the perspective of someone who was on the front lines (but who we don't hear much about). I was literally holding my breath in suspense/shock at several moments in the book, in particular when the first group attempts to march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to gain a better understanding of a very important segment of our nation's history. So ...more
Debbie Notkin
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book has been sitting on my coffee table for about 18 months. I've been looking at it and thinking, "Do I want to read that?" But I was kind of out of nonfiction, so I picked it up, and I am so glad I did.

If you don't know John Lewis, he was one of the original (well, really second wave) Freedom Riders in the early 1960s. One of the most famous photos of that time is him being beaten by an Alabama policeman on the Edmund G. Pettus bridge in Selma. He was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coor
Cathy Allen
A colleague of Congressman John Lewis once called him "the only man who was already a great man before he arrived in Congress." And that is certainly true. I do not believe there is a greater living American. John Lewis's story is of fundamental importance to all of us who love our country and all the people in it. His memoir is compellingly told and beautifully written. A must read! I have never met Congressman Lewis personally, but a cherished friend gave me an autographed copy of this book in ...more
Bryan Craig
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
This is a must-read story of one of the civil rights' greatest names. Even people familiar with the story will learn a lot from this book. The segments that include the Freedom Riders, Birmingham, and Selma are page-turners. Very emotional and powerful. ...more
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: krrc, non-fiction
This is a large, heavy book! My thumbs hurt, my hands are sore but my soul has been fed. I needed this book, especially at this point in my life/in history. I knew John Lewis was a great man; however, I did not know the extent, the depth, of his greatness. I am glad a friend recommended this book in our book club. What a book to reach my year’s reading challenge goal.


MY PERSONAL NOTES FOR BOOK CLUB ARE BELOW — not a part of my review.

I was reminded that Emmett Till wa
Aug 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is a great history of the civil rights movement from an atypical perspective, but a really important one. John Lewis was there for a lot of the important moments, but wasn't swept up and held on to as one of the shining stars of the civil rights movement - a central grunt worker who maybe didn't get to take enough bows for it all.

I liked that the narrative connected pieces of the civil rights movement I had only ever understood in their separate parts, for example how the Black Panther Part
Mary Sisney
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was published twenty years ago, but it is more relevant now than it was in 1998. Our right to vote was not under attack then the way it is now. It's important for all Americans to learn what patriotic Americans like Lewis endured in order for us to have the right to vote. It's also important that people who are part of protest movements today read this book so that they can see what real suffering is. Even the BlackLivesMatter activists (not to mention the METOO whiners) who have been ...more
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 10-star-perfect
One of the most moving books I've ever read in my life. Tragic and, somehow,inspirational. ...more
Thaddeus L.
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a great, firsthand account of the atmosphere in the USA before, during, and shortly after the Civil Rights Movement.
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book was on my summer reading list going into my freshman year. It was the "mandatory" book. When I actually got to school, I found I was one of only a handful of kids who actually read the book cover to cover, and the English teacher didn't actually mind: "I think when they were picking out the books for the summer reading, they didn't realize how long-winded this one is." Aside from being a little annoyed that I wouldn't actually get any credit for reading the book, I felt it was a shame ...more
George Sink
This was an incredibly in-depth look into the history of the civil rights movement from one of its leaders. When I started reading it I felt like I was sitting in a room next to the author as he told his story, as well as the story of the movement, and it was extraordinary. Many of the pictures he painted with words have stuck with me, from the sit-ins at Nashville lunch counters to the marches in Washington DC and Selma, and everything in between. I learned more about the people behind the move ...more
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
On a meandering around Alabama along with small sections of Alabama and Mississippi, I discovered that a story that peppered my youth was much deeper and sadder than what I remembered hearing/reading about. First hand accounts enrich any chapter in our nation's history and this one is no exception. Because those voices in the spotlight are the typical standard of how we learn our history, the windows we become familiar with, the perspective we eventually internalize, we miss out on an understand ...more
Ruth Everhart
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: racial-justice
Reading this book is an undertaking -- it's lengthy, but there are no sentences or paragraphs you want to skip. I read it in chunks before bed, and found that it stayed with me for weeks I read it, as if John Lewis was now occupying a piece of my consciousness, which was a blessing. If you are interested in intersectionality and racial justice, you will want to read this for it's clear exposition of the history of the Civil Rights movement, from the eyes of a reliable narrator who was there. ...more
William Shank
Mar 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If ever there was a true hero, John Lewis is surely one of them. Humility, commitment, courage and perseverance. This book gives one of the best accounts of the Civil Right movement available...and from the first hand experience of one who was on the front lines. Outstanding!
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2020
In this terrible year with its terrible losses perhaps none is as big as our loss of John Lewis. I was utterly engrossed in this book because while it is subtitle “a memoir of the movement” (and it is, indeed, a fascinating account of the civil rights movement of the 60s) it puts that movement in full context. Nuanced and complex takes on Dr. King, the Kennedys, the 1968 democratic convention are there alongside the view from a leader of the March on Washington and the March to Montgomery. Writt ...more
John Lewis is by far the best living American and everyone should know about him and what he's accomplished. ...more
Charles Gonzalez
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What can I say, but that this was an amazing experience, from the moment I opened it to the last words that I just finished 5 minutes ago. Like alot of boomers who lived through the civil rights period, I had a glancing understanding and knowledge of that central struggle in American history. However, like most Americans, white and black I believe, I did not have a real, emotional connection to the spirit that guided those American heroes, of which John Lewis is one of the major actors. I first ...more
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
Full review at my book blog,

John Lewis creates an incredibly compelling historical memoir in Walking with the Wind. It’s one man’s experience, but it also chronicles the experience of a whole community. While it was written in 1996, so many parts ring true for today’s turbulent world.

If you want to know how we got here, read this book. And if you want to know how and where we go from here, read this book. If you’ve been feeling discouraged at the social and political state of
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Goodreads Librari...: Author disambiguation: John Lewis 6 37 Jun 24, 2012 12:10PM  

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John Robert Lewis was the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district, serving since 1987 and was the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation. He was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), playing a key role in the struggle to end segregation. He was a member of the Democratic Party and was one of t ...more

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