Watch Rep. John Lewis Tell The Powerful Story Of Forgiving A Former Klansman Who Had Beaten Him

“The way of love is a better way. The way of peace is a better way.”

January 16, 2017

Representative John Lewis, a prominent civil rights activist before his election to the House of Representatives, told a story of redemption decades in the making at a Dr. Martin Luther King Day Jr. breakfast arranged in his honor.

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Lewis — who invoked the ire of Donald Trump last week when he called the President-elect "illegitimate" — spoke of being beaten into a pool of his own blood on May 1961 in South Carolina, all for entering a "whites only" waiting room. Years later, he was visited by the man who had attacked him, now in his 70s, accompanied by his son. "He said 'Mr. Lewis, I'm one of the people who beat who and your seatmate. I'd been a member of the Klan. I want to apologize. Will you accept my apology? Will you forgive me?'" Tearfully, Lewis did.

"It is the power of the way of peace, the way of love," Lewis said. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Hate is too heavy a burden to bear.'... You must never, ever hate. The way of love is the better way. The way of peace is a better way."

Thumbnail photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

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Watch Rep. John Lewis Tell The Powerful Story Of Forgiving A Former Klansman Who Had Beaten Him