To celebrate the launch of TIME’s new multimedia project – 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time – we asked leaders in a number of fields, from technology to the arts to business, to share the single photograph that most influenced their lives. Purchase the 100 Photographs book now.
I was 15 years old, growing up 50 miles from Montgomery. I had seen the signs that said white and colored and I didn’t like it. And when I saw what happened to Rosa Parks, this innocent, beautiful, charming woman, it spoke to my soul. It spoke to my heart. And it said to me in effect that if Rosa Parks can get arrested and do this, we all can do something. She did what I call deliberately getting in good trouble. When I was growing up and I asked my mother and father about these signs that said white and colored they would say that’s the way it is, don’t get in the way, don’t get in trouble. Rosa Parks deliberately got in trouble, she got in the way. She defied an old order to help usher in a new order.
John Lewis is a U.S. Congressman and civil rights pioneer.