Shortly before he died, congressman John Lewis wrote in an essay that he visited Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington last month because he wanted to see for himself that “truth is marching on” – and he urged activists to continue the fight for civil rights.

“While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me,” Lewis said in the essay published Thursday. “You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society.”

The New York Times, which printed the essay, said it was written shortly before the death of the Georgia Democrat on July 17 at age 80 and that he wanted it to be published on the day of his funeral.

John Lewis

John Lewis

On Thursday, three former presidents – Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton – are expected to attend services for Lewis at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, with Obama delivering a eulogy. President Donald Trump, who clashed with Lewis early in his White House tenure, is not scheduled to attend the funeral of the civil rights icon.

In early June, Lewis visited the stretch of 16th Street in Washington leading to the White House where “Black Lives Matter” had been painted in giant letters after weeks of protests following the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd.

Accompanied by Washington Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser, Lewis praised the street painting as “a powerful work of art.” The newly created plaza was among the stops earlier this week as Lewis’s hearse made its way to the Capitol, where his body lay in state.

In his essay, Lewis noted that he was admitted to the hospital the day after visiting the plaza. But, he said, “I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.”

Lewis recounted his work and struggles in the early days of the civil rights movement and urged others to continue the fight to “redeem the soul of American by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.”

“When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war,” he wrote. “So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”

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