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 Stephen J Lewis

Stephen J Lewis

Birth
Death 29 Mar 1951 (aged 68)
Burial Manassas, Manassas City, Virginia, USA
Memorial ID 33856742 · View Source
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Dr. Lewis After the Second World War my grandfather, Ben Muse, moved to Manassas, Virginia and opened up a printing plant. In Manassas he met and became friends with an African-American dentist, Dr. Lewis. Later he wrote about Lewis: "A Manassas experience which had a profound influence upon my thinking and my life was my friendship with Dr. Stephen J. Lewis, a Negro Dentist. This was from nine to four years before the Brown decision, another decade before the breakthrough in race relations of the 1960s; and Manassas, though only thirty miles from Washington, was thoroughly southern in its racial attitudes. Dr. Lewis was a highly trained dentist with the best equipped laboratory in town. More than half of his patients were white, but they tried to avoid the embarrassment of being seen talking with him on the street! Intellectually, he was superior to any of the Manassas whites that I met, but a black intellectual was a phenomenon which made whites uncomfortable, and "Doc" Lewis was still a Negro; so they shunned him as far as conveniently possible. The Negro dentist was never seen in a white home and he could not eat in any restaurant in town; he could not have a Coke at any soda fountain. Yet Dr. Lewis longed to play a part in public affairs. He accepted the humiliation of sitting on a special bench for "colored" to attend meetings of the county governing board, and at times when there was a pause in the discussion he would rise to express his opinion on some question. Few had a better grasp of the county's financial problems than he, and when he spoke the county fathers listened. Dr. Lewis was courteous and unobtrusive, but he never cringed. A naturally proud man, stockily built and well-dressed, smoking cigars incessantly, except for his color, one would have taken him for a leading citizen. But he suffered more poignantly than Manassas whites imagined. In addition to his local practice Dr. Lewis was active in the National Dental Association (the organization of Negro dentists), and editor of its monthly magazine, which was formerly printed in Chicago. When he saw that we were setting up a substantial plant, he brought the Bulletin of the National Dental Association to us for printing. He spent many hours in my office, and there, as our friendship developed, he was intimate and uninhibited. Sometimes he was almost in tears, but basically he was optimistic, confident that before many years passed the American Negro would be recognized as an equal citizen. We talked about many things, including politics, but most of all the slow-moving trend toward enlightenment and justice in race relations. A voracious reader of newspapers, he watched pathetically for any rift in the cloud of prejudice. When he read of the ending of separation of the races in some railway passenger station, or of an attack upon race discrimination by some national figure, he would come to me jubilantly with the news. Dr. Lewis died in 1950. When I visited him in the hospital in Washington during his final illness, he was effusively grateful and affectionate. Still dreaming of a Promised Land of human dignity, he last words to me were: "I'll not see it, but it's coming. It's coming - when we'll all be just people." The initiative in this story belongs to Lewis; he approached Muse, bringing the printing business. It would have been more convenient for him, as editor, to deal with a Manassas printer rather than a printer in Chicago. Maybe he also saw the potential for building a personal relationship on top of the commercial relationship. Source: Muse, Benjamin. The Twentieth Century as I Saw It. Carlton Press. New York. 1982. Pages 239-241.


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  • Maintained by: Lionel Francis Pinn, Jr.
  • Originally Created by: MVC
  • Added: 15 Feb 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 33856742
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Stephen J Lewis (29 Jul 1882–29 Mar 1951), Find A Grave Memorial no. 33856742, citing Rose Hill Cemetery, Manassas, Manassas City, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Lionel Francis Pinn, Jr. (contributor 46845107) .