John Lewis Memorial Will Replace a Confederate Monument in Atlanta

A memorial to late civil rights icon and Georgia lawmaker John Lewis will replace a Confederate monument previously on display in the Atlanta area, officials announced this week.

The activist-turned-representative — one of the "big six" leaders of the civil rights movement — died in July 2020 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2019. He was 80.

The monument to Lewis will be erected in Decatur, just outside Atlanta, replacing the DeKalb County Confederate Monument — a 30-foot stone obelisk called "The Lost Cause" that was put up by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1908, according to the Associated Press.

As Atlanta's WAGA TV station previously reported, "The Lost Cause" was placed in the town the same year the state's legislature ratified an amendment that prevented African-Americans from voting.

The station reports that, in June 2020, the confederate monument was removed from the town square in the middle of the night after a judge declared it "a public nuisance," undercutting a Georgia law that dictates "no publicly owned monument honoring Confederate soldiers" may be relocated or removed.

The AP reported that the removal came amid cheers and following a lobbying effort from groups such as the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights.

"This feels great. This is a people's victory. All of our young people from Decatur High School that made this happen. All of these organizers, everybody came together," Mawuli Davis, the head of the alliance, told the AP upon the monument's removal. "This is it. This is a victory for this country. This is an example of what can happen when people work together."

According to the Equal Justice Initiative, though there were only 11 states in the Confederacy — but 31 of the 50 states in America contain monuments dedicated to it. 

Following the killing of George Floyd in police custody last May — which sparked nationwide protests against racial injustice — states began a renewed push to remove statues that glorified the Confederate Army and its generals, presidents and soldiers.

Lewis, born to sharecroppers in Alabama in 1940, was inspired by the words of Martin Luther King Jr., organizing sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters and becoming an avid Freedom Rides participant while he attended Fisk University, according to his website.

In 1963, he was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington where King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Lewis was also a leader at the march in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, which led to the eventual passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

He was elected to Congress in 1986, where he served as U.S. Representative of Georgia's 5th Congressional District until his death.

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