As Americans across the country remember how the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life was cut short while standing on a motel balcony in Memphis, former President Barack Obama and congressman John Lewis sat down to discuss the civil rights leader and his legacy.
The black-and-white video has been shared on Twitter more than 4,000 times since being posted two hours ago by the Obama Foundation.
Obama starts by asking Lewis where he was when he learned that King had been shot. Lewis says he was in Indianapolis, organizing a rally for Robert Kennedy, who broke the news that King had been fatally wounded. Lewis expressed regret that he didn’t spend more time with King, saying “I thought he would be around a long time.”
Lewis, who in the early 1960s joined the movement against racism and segregation and became a prominent civil rights leader, knew King personally.
In a recent interview with The Atlantic, he talked about penning a letter to King about his hopes of attending a school only open to white people. King offered to file a lawsuit with him against the school and the state of Alabama — after Lewis got the green light from his parents. King warned Lewis of the risks. “He said they could lose their land; their home could be burned or bombed,” Lewis told The Atlantic. In the end, his parents were too afraid.
But that didn’t stop Lewis from eventually joining the civil rights movement. As he describes in the video, Lewis got on a Greyhound bus and was left “lying in a pool of blood” by the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina after trying to desegregate a whites-only waiting room. Two years later, as a 23-year-old in 1963, Lewis shared a stage with King at the March on Washington.
The video, first reported by Time, was filmed with students from Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Washington, D.C., a public school for young men of color. A student asks Lewis, “How did you cope with [King’s] assassination?” Lewis said he picked himself up to keep on going.
“Being on the right side of history isn’t always popular,” Obama tells them. “And it isn’t always easy.”
Notably, both Obama and Lewis have in the past been at odds with President Trump. Last year, after the Georgia congressman said he didn’t view then-President-elect Trump as “legitimate,” Trump tweeted that “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad.” The message came one day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Trump proclaimed April 4 to be a day to honor King’s legacy, stating, “We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters lest we perish together as fools. We must embrace the sanctity of life and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. As a united people, we must see Dr. King’s life mission through and denounce racism, inhumanity, and all those things that seek to divide us.”