John Lewis Fellowship: Call for Applications

Applications for the 2019 Humanity in Action programs, including the John Lewis Fellowship, are now closed. 


The 2019 John Lewis Fellowship will take place from July 1 - 31, 2019, in Atlanta, Georgia. 

As the American program of the Humanity in Action Fellowship, the John Lewis Fellowship offers 30 American and European university students the opportunity to explore diversity, race and civil rights issues in Atlanta, Georgia. 

The program honors Congressman John Lewis, an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. Humanity in Action has partnered with The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Inc., a major museum and civic institution in Atlanta, to create the fellowship. The John Lewis Fellowship is made possible by the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation provided through The Center. 

Fellows in the John Lewis Fellowship will attend discussions with renowned scholars and activists at The Center, visit historical sites around Atlanta and engage in discussions on a range of political and social issues. They will also draw upon the immense resources of The Center and contribute to its extensive and innovative outreach initiatives. Students from American universities will learn alongside Fellows from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Poland.  



A corridor leading to the main exhibition area of the Center for Civil and Human rights features opposing walls of images of white and African-American subjects. Photo and caption: The New York Times

Humanity in Action Fellowship Programs 

Intensive and demanding, Humanity in Action Fellowship programs bring together international groups of college students and recent graduates to explore national histories of discrimination and resistance as they affect different minority groups today. The fellowship programs seek to educate, connect and inspire the world's future leaders in the fields of human rights and social justice. 

Educate: Like all Humanity in Action programs, the John Lewis Fellowship is highly interdisciplinary and features lectures and discussions with renowned academics, journalists, politicians and activists, as well as site visits to government agencies, non-profit and community organizations, museums and memorials. The program seeks to highlight different models of action to remedy injustice. It also aims to instill a responsibility among Fellows to recognize and address the need to protect minorities and promote human rights—in their own communities and around the world.

Connect: The objective of the John Lewis Fellowship is to facilitate a collective exploration of the social and political roots of discrimination, as well as to create a forum where potential solutions can be considered and discussed. Within this forum, Fellows from diverse backgrounds connect with one another and with established leaders who serve as program speakers. Additionally, Senior Fellows, the alumni of the Humanity in Action Fellowship, participate in Humanity in Action's international network. Fellows have access to HIA Connect, an online platform where Humanity in Action's network of more than 1,700 Fellows and Senior Fellows connect, share information and remain active in the issues addressed during the Fellowship.  

Inspire: After completing the program, Fellows have one year to initiate Action Projects on important issues within their own communities. These Action Projects enable Fellows to apply the knowledge and skills they gained from their Fellowship experiences. To support the professional growth of its Fellows beyond their program experience, Humanity in Action also offers ongoing opportunities, including professional fellowships in the U.S. Congress and European Parliament as well as annual international conferences and study trips. 

A Note on Humanity in Action's Focus

Humanity in Action's programs concern human rights activities generally, but they focus specifically on the relationship between majority and minority groups in the countries in which the programs take place. The John Lewis Fellowship will focus on issues of diversity within the United States, with a particular emphasis on Georgia and the American South. Before applying, be sure to read our Fellowship Focus page.

Fellowship Curriculum

In its first two years, the program explored the history of the Civil Rights Movement, diversity and minority rights in Atlanta. The John Lewis Fellowship explored America’s unique history of diversity, immigration and civil rights along with present-day tensions related to minorities across the country. Key areas of inquiry include race and racism, immigration, national identity, Native American issues and the relationship between civil rights and human rights. 

The program also touched upon other issues – such as suffrage and women’s rights, LGBTQ issues, religion, labor, disability rights, poverty, class, criminal justice and incarceration, urban development, education, political participation and freedom of expression. 

In its third year, the John Lewis Fellowship expanded to focus on restorative justice in Atlanta. The four-week inquiry and resulting blueprint for restorative justice involves a multidisciplinary approach. Fellows, speakers and staff produce a blueprint – "An Appeal for Human Rights and Restorative Justice" for the city. They explore key issues and subjects including education, health, the law, urban and residential planning, police practices, local and state government, religious institutions, and the arts. 


Applicants to the John Lewis Fellowship must be currently enrolled undergraduate students (sophomores, juniors and seniors) or recent graduates. For the 2018 John Lewis Fellowship, we define recent graduates as individuals from the undergraduate classes of 2016 and 2017 at accredited, four-year undergraduate colleges or universities in the United States. Applicants of minority backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.

Important Note: Applicants may be considered for both the Humanity in Action Fellowship programs in Europe and the John Lewis Fellowship. Individuals interested in both programs, must indicate their program preferences on their applications. Please take into consideration the program dates for both the European and John Lewis Fellowships when making your selection. 

If you are an American citizen studying at a foreign university, you are eligible to apply to the Humanity in Action Fellowship through the United States. If you are a non-U.S. citizen studying at a university in the United States, you are eligible to apply to the Humanity in Action Fellowship through the U.S. office.

Students and recent graduates from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Poland are also eligible to apply. Please contact those offices directly to confirm your eligibility. 


Humanity in Action Fellows JarmiƂa Rybicka, Michael Williams, Katarzyna Gerula and Weronika Romanik in the Warsaw program in June 2014. 

Characteristics of Successful Candidates and Fellows

Humanity in Action seeks candidates who are passionate about active and responsible citizenship, diversity and human rights.


The Humanity in Action Fellowship programs provide opportunities for collaborative learning. They are not designed nor are they suitable for those who restrict themselves to a narrow and dogmatic vision and have no intention to enrich or broaden their knowledge and skills with various perspectives. The programs are a testing ground for thinking anew with others about complex issues of diversity in historical and contemporary terms. The programs focus, through educational seminars and site visits, on vulnerable populations and the unfulfilled goals of just democratic societies. The programs do not engage in on-the-ground training for political activism although some programs emphasize campaigns to fight prejudice through social media. 

Applicants should know that the programs are intensely challenging on intellectual, social and emotional levels. Full-time commitment is required from every participant during the four weeks of the program. The Humanity in Action groups in each country represent, on a small scale, the larger societies to which individuals belong. We expect respectful debate and dissent as minority opinions are aired. To probe these matters and engage in learning and growth, the programs expect and require maturity, openness, hard work and a generosity of spirit from each of the Fellows.

Successful Humanity in Action candidates and Fellows possess the following characteristics: 

Intellectual Curiosity: Humanity in Action seeks candidates who are eager to discuss–in international groups–a range of historical and contemporary topics that drive, challenge and impact diverse societies. This means that Fellows should be eager to stretch their understanding of these issues beyond their own national contexts and specific fields of study.

Collaborative Spirit: Humanity in Action seeks candidates who thrive in collaborative settings and enjoy discussing challenging issues in culturally and internationally diverse groups. Humanity in Action’s pedagogy is based upon collective and intellectually demanding discussion with speakers, peers and host families. Fellows must possess the social maturity and skills to discuss sensitive topics. 

Open-Mindedness: Humanity in Action seeks candidates who are open to challenging their personal convictions and eager to explore international perspectives on diversity. The Humanity in Action Fellowship is not a program that serves to confirm the assumptions of beliefs already held by its Fellows. Instead, the program intends to broaden and stretch the Fellows’ understanding of complex human rights issues.

Entrepreneurial Drive: Humanity in Action seeks candidates who are entrepreneurial and innovative in developing Action Projects and careers as active and responsible citizens. 

Selection Process

Admission to Humanity in Action programs is highly competitive. In 2016, the acceptance rate for the Humanity in Action Fellowship program was 9 percent. 

The selection process involves two phases. In the first phase, a panel of Humanity in Action Senior Fellows reads all applications and selects a pool of finalists for further review by a Selection Committee. The Selection Committee is comprised of Senior Fellows, Board members, supporters and friends of the organization. During the second phase, the Selection Committee reads and evaluates all finalist applications, and one of its members interviews each finalist. The final selections are based on this second reading and the interview.

Humanity in Action does not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity, religion, political party, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or financial ability. 


Humanity in Action covers the costs of participation and accommodation during the John Lewis Fellowship. However, all Fellows will be responsible for financing the cost of round-trip airfare to and from Atlanta. Humanity in Action will cover this cost for Fellows with documented need.

Although Humanity in Action provides a modest stipend for meals, Fellows should also plan to bring spending money of approximately $750 for food and social activities during the fellowship program.

Diversity of Academic Background and Career Aspiration

Humanity in Action encourages individuals from all academic disciplines to apply. The John Lewis Fellowship’s academically diverse setting enriches discussion and offers Fellows the opportunity to engage in perspectives outside their own disciplines. Humanity in Action encourages applicants who aspire to careers in business, government, medicine, academia, activism, the non-profit sector, the arts and more.

Humanity in Action Obligations and Opportunities: After the Fellowship

The John Lewis Fellowship lasts one month, but its impact on the lives of Fellows and their communities lasts for many years to come.

Action Projects: After completing the John Lewis Fellowship, Fellows have one year to complete Action Projects on important issues within their home communities  These Action Projects allow Fellows to apply the knowledge and skills they gained from their Fellowship experiences.

Essays: Following the program, each Fellow is obligated to write an essay reflecting on an issue of diversity or minority rights. 

Senior Fellow Network: Fellows are invited to participate in the Humanity in Action Senior Fellow Network. Fellows have access to HIA Connect  an online platform where Humanity in Action's network of more than 1,400 Fellows and Senior Fellows share information and remain active in the issues addressed during the Fellowship.

Ongoing Professional Opportunities: To support the professional growth of Fellows beyond the Fellowship, Humanity in Action offers ongoing opportunities, including professional fellowships in the U.S. Congress and European Parliament as well as annual international conferences and study trips. 

Follow this link to learn more about the obligations and opportunities after the Humanity in Action Fellowship.