Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and the white man who attacked him during a civil rights protest in 1961 came together to accept an award Thursday night.
Lewis and Elwin Wilson received the Common Ground award Thursday at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. The award honors outstanding accomplishments in conflict resolution, negotiation, community building, and peacebuilding.
Wilson was part of a mob that attacked Lewis and another Freedom Rider for entering the "Whites Only" waiting area of a bus station in Rock Hill, South Carolina in May 1961. He said he had wanted to apologize for years and was moved to do so by comments he read from black civil rights leaders about President Obama's inauguration.
The former segregationist contacted local civil rights activists and realized that Lewis was the young man he had beaten. Wilson went to Lewis's Capitol Hill office to apologize in January.
Both said at the time that they hoped their story would help others who took part in violence at the time to make amends.
"I said if just one person comes forward and gets the hate out of their heart, it's all worth it," Wilson told the AP. "But I hope there will be a bunch of people. Life's short and we all go to the same place when we die."