John Lewis’ Bernie Sanders comment has proven controversial since Lewis claims he “never saw” Bernie during the civil rights era. The Democrat seemed to question whether Sanders’ commitment to racial equality was real, while at the same time Lewis seemed to endorse Hillary Clinton. While the Congressional Black Caucus seem to overwhelmingly favor Hillary, fellow Democrat Keith Ellison defended Bernie against the criticisms by Lewis by noting what Sanders was actually doing during this time period in American history.
In the early 1960s, John Lewis was a civil rights icon and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The comments criticizing Bernie came out when Hillary Clinton’s endorsement by Lewis was announced.
“I never saw him. I never met him,” Rep. John Lewis said as seen in the video above. “I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved with the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery and directed voter education project for six years, but I met Hillary Clinton. I met President (Bill) Clinton.”
Keith Ellison is one of the few members of the Congressional Black Caucus who believes Bernie Sanders will win the nomination away from Hillary. Yesterday, on Twitter, Ellison was quick to point out that not everyone was endorsing Clinton.
Cong’l Black Caucus (CBC) has NOT endorsed in presidential. Separate CBCPAC endorsed withOUT input from CBC membership, including me.
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) February 11, 2016
In response to John Lewis’ comments, Ellison told CNN that Sanders was involved in Chicago’s civil rights movement, just not in Alabama.
“He didn’t see Bernie Sanders because Bernie Sanders was doing fair and open housing in Chicago — that’s why he didn’t see him. No matter how good your eyesight is — if you are standing in Alabama, you can’t see people in Chicago,” Ellison said. “That doesn’t mean he wasn’t absolutely there, fighting for justice, fighting for open housing.”
In the past, Sanders has stated that he participated in the historical March On Washington civil rights event held in August of 1963. This is where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech.
Other reports have noted that Bernie Sanders’ civil rights involvement did exist, but Mother Jones called these actions “brief and localized”.
“Sanders’ involvement was brief and localized, his sacrifices limited to one arrest for protesting and a bad GPA from neglecting his studies. But Sanders was, in his own right, an active participant in the movement during his three years at the University of Chicago,” explained the report. “Although Sanders did attend the 1963 March on Washington, at which Lewis spoke, most of his work was in and around Hyde Park, where he became involved with the campus chapter of CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] shortly after transferring from Brooklyn College in 1961.”
As part of CORE, Sanders helped lead a protest against Brooklyn College when it was discovered that off-campus apartment buildings owned by the university refused to rent to black students. The CORE protest ended in success, with the college’s president agreeing to “form a commission to study the school’s housing policies.”
Unfortunately, the college allegedly reneged on its promises and Sanders vowed to take the fight to the city of Chicago. At one point, Sanders was charged with resisting arrest after protesting segregation policies. However, Sanders was forced to leave his leadership role within the student movement since his grades suffered from the activism and the dean asked him to take time off from college.
Which Democratic candidate do you think the black community should endorse, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton?
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)