John Lewis' Life on Covers

This collection of covers doesn't "cover" every aspect of John Lewis' life, but it does document a chronological remembrance of his life in a philatelic medium.  Hopefully, John Lewis will be honored on a U.S. postage stamp, and the subsequent covers will depict a more comprehensive commemoration of his life. 

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John Lewis was born February 21, 1940, in Alabama and often was referred to as “the boy from Troy.”  The 6° Cachets by Don Neal cover commemor-ates Alabama Statehood and some of Alabama’s other native sons. 

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In 1961, John Lewis became one of the 13 original Freedom Riders.  They were seven Blacks and six Whites determined to ride buses from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans in an integrated fashion.  At age 21, Lewis was the first of the Freedom Riders to be assaulted while in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  The Fred Collins cover (left) depicts Freedom Riders on a bus.  The ‘Pushin’ the Envelope cover’s cachet (right) includes a map of the routes taken.

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This cover by Anagram shows some of the Big Six – the leaders of six prominent civil rights organizations who were instrumental in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 : Roy Wilkins (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Whitney Young, Jr. (National Urban League), John Lewis (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), James Farmer (Congress of Racial Equality), and Bayard Rustin, a leader in social move-ments for civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights, and one of the main organizers of the march.

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In addition to John Lewis, who may one day be on a U.S. Forever stamp, several others who are on a stamp participated in the March on Washington.  This ESPER cover commemorates the 1963 March on Washington and features many of those participants. 

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The Big Six also included Martin Luther King, Jr. (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and A. Philip Randolph (Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters).  Sometimes, instead of Randolph or John Lewis, Dorothy Height (National Council of Negro Women) was listed as the sixth member of the group.  It was Height who relinquished her spot on the D.C. program to John Lewis so that the “the young people” would have a voice.  This 6° Cachets by Don Neal cover is franked by a JFK stamp.  The president met with the Big Six after the March on Washington.

JL-7 March on Washington Charlton Heston

Other Black celebrities and activists (and possible future stamp subjects) such as Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte also were at the March on Washington as well as White celebrities such as Charlton Heston who also were activists and sup-porters.  The 6° Cachet by Don Neal cover depicts that fact on a Legends of Hollywood FDC with a Heston stamp.

JL-8 March on Washington Big 6 maxi card

About two months before the march, the Big Six broadened their organizing coalition by bringing on board four White men who supported their efforts.  In this maxi card, they are shown standing (L-R): Mathew Ahmann, executive director of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice; Rabbi Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress; (John Lewis); Eugene Carson Blake, former president of the National Council of Churches; (CORE leader Floyd McKissick, standing in for James Farmer who was unable to attend the march); and Walter Reuther, president of the United Automobile Workers.  Together, the Big Six plus the four newcomers became known as the "Big Ten."  Sitting (L-R) are National Urban League executive director, Whitney Young; chairman of the Demonstration Committee, Cleveland Robinson; labor union leader, A. Philip Randolph; the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leader Roy Wilkins.