US Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) and the white man who attacked him during a civil rights protest in 1961 joined hands to accept an award for their efforts to reach common ground.
At a ceremony Thursday night in Washington, Rep. Lewis and Elwin Wilson received the Common Ground award which honors outstanding accomplishments in conflict resolution, negotiation, community building, and peace building.
“If just one person comes forward and gets the hate out of their heart, it’s all worth it,” Wilson told the AP. “But I hope there will be a bunch of people. Life’s short and we all go to the same place when we die.”
In May 1961, John Lewis was a 21-year-old seminary student and member of the Freedom Riders. During a protest, Lewis was attacked for attempting to enter the bus station waiting area marked “Whites Only” in Wilson’s home town of Rock Hill, South Carolina. Wilson was part of the mob that beat him bloody.
After President Obama was inaugurated in January, the former KKK member traveled from South Carolina to Capitol Hill to apologize to Rep. Lewis and express remorse for his long-held hatred. Rep. Lewis accepted the apology and offered his forgiveness without hesitation.
Elwin Wilson now speaks out about racial bigotry and intolerance. the two men met again in Lewis’s congressional office.
The two men hope that their reconciliation will inspire others who took part in Civil Rights Era violence to come forward, and work to heal the wounds of racism in the United States.
Watch the videos below, or the report from January at MSNBC…