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Emotional Lewis Accepts National Book Award

Congressman and civil rights icon’s speech steals the show

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., gives a nominating speech for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., gives a nominating speech for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

An emotional Rep. John Lewis accepted his National Book Award on Wednesday night at the NBA’s ceremony and dinner in New York.

Lewis teared up while accepting the award, recalling his youth in rural Alabama where he was unable to obtain a library card because “the libraries were whites-only and not for coloreds,” NPR reported.

“I had a wonderful teacher in elementary school who told me, ‘Read, my child, read!’” Lewis said. “And I tried to read everything.”

Lewis collaborated with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell on a series of graphic memoirs about his life during the civil rights movement. The third in the series, “March: Book Three,” won the medal in the category of young people’s literature.

[John Lewis Closes Out ‘March’ Trilogy]

The book focuses on the fight to extend voting rights in the Jim Crow South.

Other winners Wednesday night included Colson Whitehead in the fiction category for “The Underground Railroad,” Ibram X. Kendi for “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” in the nonfiction category, and Daniel Borzutzky, in poetry, for his book “The Performance of Becoming Human.”

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