Former President Bill Clinton eulogized Rep. John Lewis as a man of “heart” during his funeral service on Thursday but took a shot at Stokely Carmichael, another civil rights icon, during the same tribute.
Clinton was one of three former presidents, including Barack Obama and George W. Bush, who spoke at the services held for Lewis at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. The home-going for Lewis was “something to behold” and fitting for Lewis, according to the 42nd president.
“I think it’s important that all of us who loved him remember that he was, after all, a human being, a man like all other humans, born with strengths that he made the most of when many don’t, born with weaknesses that he worked hard to beat down when many can’t, but still a person. It made him more interesting, and it made him, in my mind, even greater,” the former president said.
However, his comments then touched on Carmichael, who later adopted the name Kwame Ture. Clinton referenced Lewis losing his chairman position in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to Carmichael in May 1966 after having served since 1963.
Clinton felt the organization faltered under Carmichael.
“Just three years later, he lost the leadership of SNCC to Stokely Carmichael because it was a pretty good job for a guy that young and come from Troy, Alabama,” Clinton said.
“It must have been painful to lose, but he showed as a young man there’s some things that you just cannot do to hang on to a position because if you do, then, you won’t be who you are anymore. And I say there were two or three years there, where the movement went a little too far towards Stokely, but in the end, John Lewis prevailed.”
It didn’t take long for Black Twitter to drag the so-called “first Black president” for his remarks. Many felt he had no right to even offer his opinion, much less at the services for Lewis.
WOW. This is so tone deaf. So disrespectful. So inaccurate. This is what happens when we let people think they got a cookout seat. pic.twitter.com/tAzaFuuHiT
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) July 30, 2020
“WOW. This is so tone deaf. So disrespectful. So inaccurate. This is what happens when we let people think they got a cookout seat,” BET host Marc Lamont Hill tweeted.
Others noted that Carmichael, one of the architects of Black Power, was viewed by some as being too radical.
“It was in Greenwood that Stokley Carmichael shouted they words “Black power” for the first time. One can eulogize Congressman John Lewis without demonizing other freedom fighters you didn’t agree with,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones commented.
Media entrepreneur Benjamin Dixon offered proof that there was no hostility between Lewis and Carmichael. Lewis hailed him as speaking truth to power.
John Lewis honoring Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture).
Bill Clinton can kiss all of Black America’s Black asses. pic.twitter.com/8kHF6LCi5r
— Benjamin Dixon (@BenjaminPDixon) July 31, 2020
Lewis died on July 17 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 80. Carmichael died in 1998 at the age of 57 from prostate cancer.