19th Annual RFK Book Award (1998-1999)
Judges: Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Caroline Kennedy, Bill Kovach and Ambassador William vanden Heuvel
Congressman John Lewis Wins 19th Annual RFK Book Award at May 18th Washington, D.C. Ceremony
Washington, D.C. (May 18, 1999) - Rep. John Lewis received the 19th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement at the May 18th Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards ceremony. "Tonight, I accept this honor on behalf of the unsung heroes who cared deeply, sacrificed much, and fought hard for a better America," Congressman Lewis said in a speech that recalled the sacrifices and courage of the civil rights era. Walking with the Wind (Simon and Schuster) is Congressman Lewis' powerful memoir of the pivotal events of the civil rights movement and his critical role in its struggle to overcome racism and hate with moral consistency and courage.
"John Lewis, with Michael D'Orso, has written an honest and trenchant memoir that powerfully conveys the anguish and hope of tragic days," said Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., RFK Book Award Founder and Chair. "It is both a superb contribution to the history of our times and a moving evocation of a gallant spirit."
John Lewis has been a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since 1987. Born of a strong family amidst rural poverty, Congressman Lewis rose to become one of the civil rights movement's most important leaders. He was at the center of many of the defining events of the era, helping to organize sit-ins and the Freedom Rides, speaking at the March on Washington and leading the walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Congressman Lewis remains a believer in the philosophy of nonviolent social action espoused by his mentor and friend, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In addition, Distinguished Honor awards were given to David Halberstam for The Children< (Random House) and Scott Christianson for With Liberty for Some: 500 Years of Imprisonment (Northeastern University Press).
The Children is David Halberstam's portrait of eight idealistic African American students - including John Lewis - whose courage and sacrifice helped propel the struggle for civil rights into the national consciousness. Halberstam traces both the students' lives and the growth of the civil rights movement from the 1960s until the present day.
Scott Christianson's compelling With Liberty for Some tells the history and illuminates the meaning of imprisonment in American life, from the colonial slave trade to today's expanding prison complexes. With nearly two million Americans in prison today, With Liberty for Some moves the neglected problem of incarceration toward the top of the national agenda and provides the historical and social context for all subsequent discussion about this complex issue.
The books were selected from a record-breaking field of over 200 nominations that cover a wide range of subjects that reflect Robert Kennedy's concern for the poor and powerless and his struggle for social justice and human rights in the United States and around the world.
Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy presented the awards at a ceremony conducted in conjunction with the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards on May 18, 1999 at The Freedom Forum in Arlington, Virginia. Congressman Lewis received a $2,500 award and a bust of Robert Kennedy. David Halberstam and Scott Christianson each received a $1,000 award and a bust of Robert Kennedy.
The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award was founded in 1980 with the proceeds from Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s best-selling biography, Robert Kennedy and His Times. Each year, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and John Seigenthaler, the chairs of the Award, choose an independent panel of four judges to select the winner. This year's judges are Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Caroline Kennedy, Bill Kovach and Ambassador William vanden Heuvel. The RFK Book Awards have received international recognition as one of the most prestigious honors an author can achieve.
Past winners include Vice President Al Gore, Toni Morrison, Randall Kennedy, Neil Sheehan, Robert Coles, Myles Horton, Anthony Lukas, Stephen B. Oates and Jonathon Kozol.
The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award Ceremony is held in conjunction with the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards Ceremony, and is hosted by The Freedom Forum, a non-partisan international organization dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people. Its headquarters is The Freedom Forum World Center in Arlington, Virginia.
Robert F. Kennedy's belief that individual action could overcome injustice and oppression continues to inspire generations to change the world. The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, a non-profit organization dedicated to social justice and human rights, was founded in 1968 by friends and family as a living tribute to Robert Kennedy's vision of a better world.