For immediate release:
July 21, 2020

CONTACT: Mark McCormick, Director of Strategic Communications, 913-490-4113,

OVERLAND PARK, KS - Much of the news coverage about the recent passing of Rep. John Lewis and the Rev. C.T. Vivian has centered on the violence each endured – Lewis, clubbed with a baton in Selma, Ala., and Rev. Vivian, punched in the face by Dallas County, Ala. Sheriff Jim Clark.

The ACLU of Kansas honors not only that courage and sacrifice, but also the towering civil rights legacies these men built in the face of withering violence, once they climbed back to their feet.

In 2001, a bipartisan coalition of legislators that included then-Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback advanced the legislation creating the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and Culture, a literal monument to civil rights.

The bold, bronze building stands on the National Mall, not far from a monument dedicated to a slaveholder president. It chronicles the relationship between the United States and the people it once enslaved.

The museum, Lewis said, “is more than a building, it is a dream come true.”

Interestingly, both men have connections to Kansas and the surrounding area. Lewis was represented in court more than once by Donald Hollowell, a Wichita-born lawyer who also represented Georgia State Sen. and a founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center Julian Bond, and helped free the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. from prison.

Rev. Vivian, born in Howard County, MO., had been tapped by Dr. King to help lead voting rights efforts. Rev. Vivian, after Clark punched him, stood back up and continued advocating for black voters before receiving stitches and being dragged off to jail.

When Rev. Vivian received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, President Obama said Vivian was among the first to be in the action. In 1947, Obama said, Vivian joined a sit-in to integrate an Illinois restaurant; he was one of the first Freedom Riders; and in Selma, he was on the courthouse steps to register black voters.

Obama continued: “Rosa Parks said of him, ‘Even after things had supposedly been taken care of and we had our rights, he was still out there, inspiring the next generation, including me,’ helping kids go to college with a program that would become Upward Bound.” He praised Vivian, then 89, for being “still in the action, pushing us closer to our founding ideals.”

We honor both men for planting the protective trees where civil rights and civil liberties yet today find relief and comfort. We try daily to follow their example and to build on their legacy.