Rep. John Lewis was a guest on The Late Show last night, there to discuss the publication of Book Three of March, his graphic novel about the Civil Rights Movement.
During the course of their discussion, Stephen Colbert asked Lewis about protests past and present.
This was Lewis’ response to why he led a sit-in on the floor of the House to call for a vote on gun control in the wake of the Orlando massacre:
Sometimes you have to find a way to get in the way, or get into trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.
When I was growing up in rural Alabama as a young child and would visit places like Troy, Montgomery, and I would see those signs that said, White Men, Colored Men, White Women, Colored Women, White Waiting, Colored Waiting, I would ask my mother, my father, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, they would say, ‘that’s the way it is. Don’t get in the way. Don’t get in trouble.’ But I heard of Rosa Parks. I heard of Martin Luther King, Jr. I met Rosa Parks in 1957 when I was 17. 1958 I met Dr. King. And these two individuals inspired me to get in trouble. And I’ve been getting in good trouble, necessary trouble ever since.
Colbert went further back in time as well, taking out a photo of Lewis and other marchers being beaten as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the way to Montgomery, Ala. in a voting rights protest that would become known as Bloody Sunday.
“That is you, right there, being beaten by the police as you tried to cross the bridge. What were you thinking as you walked the bridge? Did you expect this to happen?” asks Colbert.
“I thought we were going to be arrested and jailed. I didn’t have any idea that we would be beaten,” said Lewis. “But I thought I was going to die on that bridge. I thought I saw death. And…some force, and maybe God almighty, kept me here. To continue to push and pull. To continue to find a way, to get in the way and get in good trouble. Because I truly believe, when you see something that is not fair, not right, not just, you have to do something.”
Colbert also asked for Lewis’ opinion on Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback who sat down during a playing of the national anthem to protest the treatment of people of color in the United States.
“You have a right to protest,” said Lewis. “It’s protected by our Constitution. You have a right to dissent. Dr. King said you have a right to protest of what is right. So this young man, this football player, is acting according to the dictates of his conscience, and we should support him.”
But as weighty as the conversation was between Lewis and Colbert, something else had been going on that evening. Crowd surfing. It was started by an earlier guest, Christian Slater, with subsequent guest Chris Geere also climbing on board. On hands.
Colbert extended the invitation to Lewis at the end of their segment. “You want to crowd surf?” he asked. Lewis’ response in the affirmative was so swift Colbert clarified, just to make sure Lewis knew what he was agreeing to. “You want to jump into the crowd with me?” he asked. “Yes. Yes,” said Lewis again, without hesitation, dancing out of his seat.
And off they went.
Watch the entire segment below.