By Isis Davis-Marks
SMITHSONIANMAG.COM
JANUARY 28, 2021

 

A tribute to the congressman and activist will stand in a DeKalb County square once occupied by a Confederate obelisk

A memorial to the late congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis will soon stand in a Georgia square formerly occupied by a Confederate monument.

This Confederate Statue will be replaced by John Lewis Monument
This Confederate Statue will be replaced by John Lewis Monument

As Asia Ashley reports for local news outlet the Champion, the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution advocating for the monument’s creation on January 26. The tribute will be installed on the grounds of the DeKalb County Courthouse, where a 30-foot obelisk honoring DeKalb’s Confederate soldiers stood until June 2020, when a judge ordered its removal following protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd.

“The area that once held the obelisk monument is unique as it sits wholly, both in the Congressional District Mr. Lewis represented for over 33 years and in DeKalb County, Georgia, and in the City of Decatur, the county seat,” the resolution states, as quoted by the Champion.

According to Tyler Estep of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the resolution calls the site “the most fitting” place for a memorial to Lewis, who represented Georgia’s 5th Congressional District—which includes Atlanta and most of DeKalb—in the United States House of Representatives.

The board’s decision is a direct response to recommendations from the John Lewis Commemorative Task Force, a group created last August to discuss the best way to honor the legislator following his death at age 80 on July 17, 2020.

“John was a giant of a man, with a humble heart,” DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson told the Journal’s Estep at the time. “He met no strangers and he truly was a man who loved the people and who loved his country, which he represented very well. He deserves this honor.”

DeKalb legislators are still determining the details of the planned monument, but as the Journal reports, the Decatur-based Beacon Hill Alliance for Human Rights has suggested a statue of Lewis donning a trench coat and backpack—the outfit he wore on Bloody Sunday.

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