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Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  2,098 ratings  ·  254 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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4.49  · 
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 ·  2,098 ratings  ·  254 reviews

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There are precious few figures in American politics with anything like the moral authority of John Lewis. Out of the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century, he is one of the survivors of the marches, of the police beatings, of the long fight for personal freedom and equality under the law.

The subtitle, 'A Memoir of the Movement', is apt. Lewis spends only a little time recounting his childhood (sharecropper parents, rural Alabama, dreams of being a priest), and barely a chapter on his po
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

In the wake of the presidential election of 2016 and reports that Russian hackers had influenced the outcome in favor of Donald Trump, Congressman John Lewis was quoted as saying “I don’t see the president-elect as a legitimate president” and that he would not be attending the inauguration.

Mr. Trump, never one to allow a criticism to go untweeted, reached for his always handy phone on the eve of the Martin Luther King holiday and tweeted that Lewis should “spend more time on fixing and he
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Cathy Allen
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-leaders
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
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
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!
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
Sonya K.
Sep 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't normally read non-fiction novels, let alone autobiographies, so when I was told I needed to read John Lewis's story for class, I was not excited; usually, reading for a class takes the fun out of the book for me.

However, I learned so much from this book, about leadership and the Civil Rights Movement. I had never heard of John Lewis before, but he will stand out in my mind because he showed me so much about the Movement that I didn't know or hadn't appreciated. AP US History doesn't cov
Christine Luong
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
John Lewis is a national treasure. For anyone to question what he's done for this country is just astounding. His account of the civil rights movement and his role in it was inspirational, heartbreaking, and horrifying. To still believe in the principles of nonviolence and the Beloved Community after all of the injustice and violence he endured is a testament to his strength of character. For the people who question the Black Lives Matter movement and why it's not called All Lives Matter, this b ...more
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
John Lewis is a national treasure, and the last living member of the "Big 6" civil rights leaders behind the 1963 March on Washington. In this day and age, as we face a regime that aims to undo the progress made towards justice in multiple areas, it is more important than ever to hear his voice. His writing made me feel as if I was there with him and all the brave souls that were part of the movement. His warnings and observations about Newt Gingrich could easily be written about the current cro ...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
Monalisa Jackson
Jan 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I assigned this book in one of my college classes a couple years ago. Lewis presents an amazing account of his childhood in Alabama, his work with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and his relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lewis is an ordained Baptist Minister and believes deeply in non-violent protest as a means of social change.

My favorite part of this book is Lewis's accounting of his first meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lewis, who was quite a bit y
Sep 16, 2015 added it
Categories: Book over 500 pages (Book Riot 2016 List)
Political Memoir (Popsugar 2016 List)
Book You've Been Meaning to Read (Teacher 2016 List)

Wow! Being born in the 1980's, this is a period in history that I neither lived through nor learned about in History class. There are so many reason to read this book-- the detailed accounts of not only this atrocities and events of the Civil Rights movement, but also the politics and background players that lead to them. On one hand, it is horrifying to r
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am now reading this book from our library, but I have to have it. I want to yell from the roof tops for everyone to read it. John Lewis carefully details the decisions, the people the choices made and his part in the initial years of the Civil Rights Movement and his amazing part in SNCC. He describes his journey through the years and how he came to the decision to run for Congress from the 5th district in Georgia. I am happy to say he honorably still holds that position today.

I want to be sur
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 inspirational. I can't believe some of the things that happened so recently in our country's history. When you're young and have very little concept of time, something that happened 60 years ago might as well have happened 6,000 years ago. But to understand that less than 50 years ago, people of differing skin colors were not allowed to use the same bathroom or eat at the same table as others in many parts of this country, well, ...more
Elizabeth Huff
Jun 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This week has been incredibly humbling, and finishing this book was certainly part of that. John Lewis's words really hit me. He has lived a tremendous life, an exemplary one at that, actually doing what he says and staying true to himself in the face of mounting pressure to behave otherwise. In spite of all the killings recently, I'm left wondering how we proceed. The things that need to be fixed now are much harder than the things that the civil rights movement accomplished, and yet it can be ...more
Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Conventional Wisdom says that John Lewis is a Secular Saint...and for once,Conventional Wisdom is right...Lewis has chosen to work out his salvation in the realm of politics where saints are thin on the ground and I would not defend every political decision he has made but this book gives much evidence that he is an exemplary human being;brave,intelligent,idealistic and the kind of man we see all too infrequently in Public Life...
Keith Weir
All I can say is WOW! An amazing man, a powerful story, and an incredible challenge for us today. We can, and must, fight for what is right. We must stand up to injustice. This was very well written, and was incredibly informative.
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John Robert Lewis is the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district, serving since 1987 and is 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 is a member of the Democratic Party and is one of the m ...more
“I believe in freedom of speech, but I also believe that we have an obligation to condemn speech that is racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic, or hateful.” 32 likes
“Rioting is not a movement. It is not an act of civil disobedience. I think it is a mistake for people to consider disorganized action, mayhem, and attacks on other people and property as an extension of any kind of movement. It is not. It is simply an explosion of emotion. That's all. There is nothing constructive about it. It is destructive.” 13 likes
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