John Lewis: In Search of the Beloved Community (Black Lives) (Hardcover)

John Lewis: In Search of the Beloved Community (Black Lives) By Raymond Arsenault Cover Image
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The first full-length biography of civil rights hero and congressman John Lewis
“The perfect book, at the right time.”—Michael Henry Adams, The Guardian
For six decades John Robert Lewis (1940–2020) was a towering figure in the U.S. struggle for civil rights. As an activist and progressive congressman, he was renowned for his unshakable integrity, indomitable courage, and determination to get into “good trouble.”
In this first book-length biography of Lewis, Raymond Arsenault traces Lewis’s upbringing in rural Alabama, his activism as a Freedom Rider and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, his championing of voting rights and anti-poverty initiatives, and his decades of service as the “conscience of Congress.”
Both in the streets and in Congress, Lewis promoted a philosophy of nonviolence to bring about change. He helped the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders plan the 1963 March on Washington, where he spoke at the Lincoln Memorial. Lewis’s activism led to repeated arrests and beatings, most notably when he suffered a skull fracture in Selma, Alabama, during the 1965 police attack later known as Bloody Sunday. He was instrumental in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and in Congress he advocated for racial and economic justice, immigration reform, LGBTQ rights, and national health care.
Arsenault recounts Lewis’s lifetime of work toward one overarching goal: realizing the “beloved community,” an ideal society based in equity and inclusion. Lewis never wavered in this pursuit, and even in death his influence endures, inspiring mobilization and resistance in the fight for social justice.

About the Author

Raymond Arsenault is the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History Emeritus at the University of South Florida. He is the author of several award-winning books on civil rights history, including Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice; The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America and Arthur Ashe: A Life.

Praise For…

“The perfect book, at the right time.”—Michael Henry Adams, The Guardian

“Deeply researched and accessible. . . . A substantial entry in Yale’s Black Lives series.”—Matthew F. Delmont, New York Times Book Review

“If you liked King: A Life, by Jonathan Eig, read John Lewis: In Search of the Beloved Community, by Raymond Arsenault.”—Washington Post

“This sweeping biography represents the first effort at a comprehensive account of the life of the civil-rights icon John Lewis.”—New Yorker

John Lewis: In Search of the Beloved Community examines a rare journey from protest leader to career politician, buffeted by the winds of Black nationalism, debates over the acceptability of violence and perennial tensions between purity and pragmatism.”—David Smith, The Guardian

“Now, less than four years after his death, we have the first full-length biography of this remarkable citizen. John Lewis: In Search of the Beloved Community . . . tells the story of Lewis’s tireless work as a Freedom Rider, as an ally to oppressed people in every corner of America, as a defender of voting rights, and as the conscience of Congress.”—Ron Charles, CBS Sunday Morning

Named a New Yorker “Best Book We Read This Week”

“Deeply researched and profoundly insightful.”—Steve Nathans-Kelly, Chicago Review of Books

“The first comprehensive biography of the icon, an inspiring portrait of a man whose vision and moral courage propelled him to share his belief in the Beloved Community and inspire generations.”—Henry L. Carrigan, Jr., BookPage (starred review)

“Well-researched. . . . An illuminating account of the differences among civil rights activists over goals, tactics, and strategy.”—Glenn C. Altschuler, Florida Courier

“To its last page, John Lewis: In Search of the Beloved Community presents not only the definitive history of an admirable American, but a gripping account of an American struggle for freedom that continues today.”—Michael Ray Taylor, Chapter 16 and Nashville Scene

“How to capture the full humanity of such a legendary figure [as John Lewis], whose life was intertwined with some of America’s lowest lows and highest highs? Civil rights historian Raymond Arsenault does just that in his new biography.”—Bookstack (podcast)

Recommended by San Francisco Bay Times in “Top of Your Stack”

“Beautifully written and deeply researched, Arsenault’s biography of John Lewis captures his indomitable courage and steadfast moral clarity.”— Mia Bay, author of Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance

“Arsenault’s highly readable book presents us not just with an indispensable chronicle of a transformative era, but with the portrait of a remarkable human being whose character and vision challenge us all to live up to both his ideals and his sacrifices.”—Drew Gilpin Faust, Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor and President Emerita, Harvard University

“This is a lovely, honest, and thorough book about an American hero who should be better known.”—Thomas E. Ricks, author of Waging a Good War: How the Civil Rights Movement Won Its Battles, 1954–1968

“An inspiring and movingly drawn portrait of a true American hero who, armed only with raw moral courage, managed to leave his beloved nation better than he found it.”—Obery M. Hendricks, Jr., author of Christians Against Christianity: How Right-Wing Evangelicals Are Destroying Our Nation and Our Faith

Product Details
ISBN: 9780300253757
ISBN-10: 0300253753
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: January 16th, 2024
Pages: 588
Language: English
Series: Black Lives