(NBC News) - Rep. John Lewis, one of the leading Freedom Riders of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, found himself inspiring social media after his tweet commemorating his release from jail more than a half-century ago went explosively viral Monday.

Lewis, D-Georgia, sent out this tweet at Monday morning:

53 yrs ago today I was released from Parchman Penitentiary after being arrested in Jackson for using "white" restroom

By 9 p.m. ET, it had been retweeted 25,196 times and 15,795 favorites; the same picture posted to Facebook was shared 6,414 times and "liked" by 18,465 people.

Lewis told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he sent the tweet to his 37,200 followers to "educate and inform people who were not even born 53 years ago," adding: “When I walk the streets of D.C. and Atlanta, people say to me, ‘Thank you.’ Black, white, Asian, they appreciate what we did.”