Left: Rep. John Lewis; Right: Maine Gov. Paul LePage / REUTERS

John Lewis Should 'Thank' White Men for Civil Rights, Says Maine Gov.

Civil rights leader John Lewis has white men to thank for the civil rights advancements Black Americans have seen, according to Maine Gov. Paul LePage.


“How about John Lewis last week, criticizing the president,” he said during an interview with Maine radio station WVOM. “You know, I will just say this: John Lewis ought to look at history. It was Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves. It was Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant that fought against Jim Crow laws. A simple thank you would suffice.”

LePage’s assessment is historically inaccurate, however. President Abraham Lincoln did in 1863 sign the Emancipation Proclamation and advocated for the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery. But according to historians, Jim Crow laws did not exist during President Ulysses S. Grant’s administration, which spanned from 1869-1877. President Rutherford B. Hayes, who served as president from 1877-1881, oversaw the end of Reconstruction — and the beginning of Jim Crow laws, which remained in effect for nearly a century.

Lewis has a long history of civil rights activism. He was the youngest speaker at the march on Washington in 1963. He marched in Selma, Alabama, two years later and suffered a fractured skull. He was arrested dozens of times for his active role in civil rights. Lewis is the last surviving member of the “Big Six,” six prominent leaders during the civil rights movement.

Brenda Jones, communications director for Lewis, said the civil rights icon does not feel “the need to defend himself against spurious comments.”

“People who know America’s history know what the facts are,” Jones said. “It sounds to me like [LePage] is just trying to be mean-spirited. The facts of history refute that statement.”

Phil Bartlett, chair of the Democratic Party of Maine, in a statement slammed LePage for his “profound misunderstanding” of history, WCSH6 reported:

“Gov. LePage’s comments reflect a profound misunderstanding of history and the crucial role that Rep. John Lewis played in the struggle for civil rights. Gov. LePage should be calling upon President-Elect Trump to engage with leaders like Chellie Pingree and John Lewis rather than ratcheting up the rhetoric against those willing to stand up for their beliefs.”

Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree has stated she does not plan to attend Trump’s inauguration, and LePage said she should resign.

LePage, in trying to clarify his remarks, slammed the NAACP and Blacks overall for characterizing all whites as racist and said the NAACP owes white people an apology, the Portland Press Herald reported.

“The Blacks, the NAACP [paint] all white people with one brush,” LePage said. “To say that every white American is a racist is an insult. The NAACP should apologize to the white people, to the people from the North for fighting their battle.”

“And now they paint one brush and say all whites are racists,” he went on. “I’m sorry, we’re not.”

Lewis served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, not the NAACP, during the civil rights era, the Huffington Post reported.

State Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland), director of the Maine division of the NAACP and president of the NAACP of Portland branch, called the governor’s remarks “a painful reminder” of the continued fight for civil rights.

“The ripple effects of this insult reverberate far beyond Maine’s African American community,” Talbot Ross said. “It’s a painful reminder to every person in Maine and those nationwide that the fight for equal rights and dignity continues. The NAACP remains dedicated to this fight today and tomorrow. We also welcome the opportunity to correct the governor’s historical assessment of the civil rights movement.”

The governor’s original remarks came after a feud arose between Lewis and President-elect Donald Trump over the weekend of Martin Luther King Day. After Lewis stated he did not plan to attend Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration, saying he is not a “legitimate president,” Trump responded with a characteristic Twitter firestorm.

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

Latest News

closeup of hand with remote

Anti-LGBTQ Group ‘One Million Moms’ Protests Mattress Company’s Inclusive Commercial Featuring Lesbian Couple

The conservative anti-LGBTQ hate organization known as One Million Moms is at it again, this time protesting a TV commercial from the bedding company Avocado Green Mattress, which features a number of couples relaxing on their mattresses, including what the group considers an “offensive” lesbian couple. The Advocate’s Trudy Ring…

girls high school sports

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Officially Bans Transgender Students From School Sports

Holding true to threats he has made in the past, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has officially signed into Texas state law a rule that would restrict transgender students from participating in high school sports consistent with their gender identity. ESPN’s Katie Barnes reported that following Abbott’s action, Texas has become…

Prince

Music Icon Prince Could Soon Be Honored With Posthumous Congressional Gold Medal

He changed music history and was the soundtrack for countless people’s lives, and now music legend Prince could soon be awarded a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal by the U.S. government. Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press has reported that “Minnesota’s Congressional delegation on Monday, Oct. 25, introduced a resolution to…

AAPI Hate

New FBI Report Estimates Anti-Asian Hate in the United States Increased by 73% in 2020

We’ve known anti-Asian sentiment increased dramatically in the U.S. since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but new government data quantifies just how shockingly severe that jump has been. Based on recently released FBI data, Sakshi Venkatraman of NBC News reported that “anti-Asian hate crimes increased more than 73% in…

Boeing building

Boeing Global Services CEO Ted Colbert Named Black Engineer of the Year by ‘US Black Engineer & Information Technology’ Magazine

Originally published at boeing.mediaroom.com. Boeing Company ranked No. 17 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   Ted Colbert, president and CEO of Boeing Global Services, has been named Black Engineer of the Year (BEYA) for 2022 by U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine. The…

map of Iowa

Black Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn Threatened With Lynching After Penning Anti-Trump Op-Ed

An Iowa Democrat has been threatened with violence simply for writing an opinion piece critical of the former president. Brianne Pfannenstiel of the Des Moines Register has reported that “Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn received multiple threats, including one of lynching, after he penned an opinion piece critical of…