Georgia to erect John Lewis statue in place of Confederate monument

Lewis spent his entire life fighting for civil rights

A symbol of the dark legacy of slavery, a 30-foot stone pillar that suggested the Civil War was fought to uphold “Southern Honor” has stood outside the courthouse grounds in the city of Decatur, GA for 112 years.

That structure was finally taken down last year. And in its place, officials now plan to erect a monument that honors the late John Lewis. Lewis, the longtime US congressman who died last July after a six-month battle with cancer, spent his entire life fighting for civil rights.

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Although situated in a liberal enclave in DeKalb County, which is a predominantly African American, the city of Decatur lies in a state that, in 2019, passed a law protecting Confederate monuments, saying they honored history and heritage.

Obstructed by state law, DeKalb County officials could only install a bronze plaque next to the offensive obelisk to try to counter the narrative it pushed. In the scathing 184-word statement, it said the monument “bolstered white supremacy and faulty history.”

Read More: Hurricane Laura destroys Confederate monument after officials vote to keep it

“This monument and similar ones also were created to intimidate African Americans,” the statement added.

However, after the killing of George Floyd, America took a hard look at race and injustice, and in city after city, Confederate monuments toppled, CNN reported.

After protests erupted across the nation, Decatur took the matter of the monument to court, arguing that the huge structure had become a threat to public safety, and a judge agreed.

“The Confederate obelisk has become an increasingly frequent target of graffiti and vandalism, a figurative lightning rod for friction among citizens, and a potential catastrophe that could happen at any time if individuals attempt to forcibly remove or destroy it,” Judge Clarence Seeliger said in a ruling last June.

Soon after the ruling, a large crane tore down the Confederate obelisk as a crowd chanted, “Take it down! Take it down!”

John Lewis
Rep. John Lewis (Photo by Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images)

This week, the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to honor Lewis with a monument outside the courthouse where the obelisk stood.

Read More: New Georgia senators Warnock, Ossoff promise to carry on John Lewis’ legacy

“John was a giant of a man, with a humble heart,” Commissioner Davis Johnson said in a statement. “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.”

Details about Lewis’ memorial’s design and installation have not been announced.

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