The first documentary biography of Lewis, whose unwavering fight for justice spans the past 50 years, is part of Black History Month programming on PBS. Premiering tonight, Friday, February 10, on PBS, is the very timely documentary, “John Lewis – Get in the Way,” produced and directed by Kathleen Dowdey, which will air from 10:30-11:30 p.m. ET (check local listings).
“John Lewis – Get in the Way” spans more than half a century, tracing Lewis’ journey of courage, confrontation and hard-won triumphs. The son of sharecroppers, Lewis grew up in rural isolation, seemingly destined for a bleak future in the Jim Crow South. But Lewis took a different path, rising from Alabama’s Black Belt to the corridors of power on Capitol Hill, his humble origins forever linking him to those whose voices often go unheard.
Following a film festival run and featuring never-before-seen interviews shot over 20 years, “John Lewis – Get in the Way” features Lewis, a masterful storyteller, relating the gripping tale of his life and role in history-making events. As a student activist in the vanguard of the civil rights movement, Lewis was arrested and jailed for the first time during the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins in 1960. During the 1961 Freedom Rides, he was repeatedly assaulted by angry mobs. He was the youngest speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington, and in March 1965, Lewis led the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Alabama, where state troopers attacked peaceful protesters with billy clubs, bullwhips and tear gas. Their horrific actions were broadcast on news reports into living rooms across America; eight months later, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law.
Once an activist pushing from the outside, Lewis, now 76 years old, has become a determined legislator creating change from the inside. Considered by many to be the conscience of Congress, with equal measures of modesty and forcefulness, Lewis strives to persuade D.C. powerbrokers to hear the voices of the unheard. He fights for those suffering from discrimination, poverty, poor education, police brutality, inaccessible healthcare and limitations on voting rights.
Key interviewees featured in the documentary include civil rights activists Andrew Young, C.T. Vivian, Juanita Abernathy and Bernard Lafayette, as well as Lewis’ congressional colleagues Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Emanuel Cleaver and Amory Houghton.
“John Lewis – Get in the Way” airs as part of a full line-up of Black History Month programming on PBS, which celebrates the diversity of America with documentaries and specials that highlight the African American experience. Visit PBS.org for the full list of programs.
Ahead of tonight’s premiere of “John Lewis – Get in the Way,” Shadow & Act has been granted an exclusive 3 1/2 minute clip from the film, highlighting the Nashville sit-ins in 1961, as Lewis, along with fellow students, began a nonviolent campaign at Nashville lunch counters where African Americans had long been refused service.
Watch the clip below, which is followed by a full trailer for the documentary:
And here’s the full trailer: