1999: John Lewis with Michael D'Orso
Walking with the Wind / With Liberty For Some: 500 Years of Imprisonment in America / The Children
1999: John Lewis with Michael D'Orso

The 1999 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award went to Congressman John Lewis for Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, written with Michael D’Orso. Distinguished honors were presented to David Halberstam for The Children and Scott Christianson for With Liberty For Some: 500 Years of Imprisonment in America.

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, serving as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from 1963-1966. 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, Martin Luther King, Jr.

“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 his acceptance speech.  

Based on exhaustive research and the author's insider's knowledge of the criminal justice system, With Liberty for Some by Scott Christianson provides an absorbing, well-written chronicle of imprisonment in its many forms. Interweaving his narrative with the moving, often shocking, personal stories of the prisoners themselves and their keepers, Christianson considers convict transports to the colonies; the international trade in captive indentured servants, slaves, and military conscripts; life under slavery; the transition from colonial jails to model state prisons; the experience of domestic prisoners of war and political prisoners; the creation of the penitentiary; and the evolution of contemporary corrections. His penetrating study of this broad spectrum of confinement reveals that slavery and prisons have been inextricably linked throughout American history. He also examines imprisonment within the context of the larger society. 

The Children is David Halberstam's brilliant and moving evocation of the early days of the civil rights movement, as seen through the story of the young people--the Children--who met in the 1960s and went on to lead the revolution.  Magisterial in scope, with a strong you-are-there quality, The Children is a story one of America's preeminent journalists has waited years to write, a powerful book about one of the most dramatic movements in American history.