Discover Virginia and American history from three centuries at the Lee-Fendall House Museum. Located in historic Alexandria, this museum interprets the experiences of the people who lived and worked in the house from 1785 to 1969. Explore stories of everyone who has left their mark -- merchants and politicians, enslaved and free African Americans, housewives and actresses, liquor dealers and labor leaders.
John L. Lewis was one of the most powerful labor leaders of the twentieth century. He helped transform the lives of many working-class Americans. Born into a poor, immigrant family in Iowa, Lewis began working in coal mines as a teenager. He rapidly rose up through the ranks of the United Mine Workers of America to become the union's president. He also founded the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). In the 1930s, Lewis moved to Washington, D.C., and lived with his family in the Lee-Fendall House.
Sometimes the tactics Lewis used were controversial, particularly his call for coal strikes in the middle of World War II, which many Americans considered unpatriotic. Protestors frequently gathered outside his home. And yet, Lewis was a hero to many workers and their families. In 1964, Lewis was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson.