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The City of Atlanta Renames Freedom Parkway in Honor of U.S. Congressman and Civil Rights Leader John Lewis

Post Date:08/23/2018 1:23 PM

News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Council Communications
Atlanta City Hall
55 Trinity Ave. S.W.
Atlanta, GA 30303 

CONTACT:
Dexter M. Chambers                                                                                         Phyllis Jackson
Council Communications Director                                                                  Press Secretary
(404)330-6309/392-0159                                                                                   (470)-532-9675
dchambers@atlantaga.gov                                                                               phljackson@atlantaga.gov

                                                         

August 23, 2018 

The City of Atlanta Renames Freedom Parkway in Honor of U.S. Congressman and Civil Rights Leader John Lewis

 

Atlanta, GA—Freedom Parkway, a major east–west thoroughfare in the heart of Atlanta, is now “John Lewis Freedom Parkway” in honor of one of America’s most preeminent social justice heroes and the U. S. congressman from the Fifth Congressional District.

A dedication ceremony was held Wednesday at the intersection of Ponce de Leon Avenue and the parkway that now bears Lewis’ name.

“I am very deeply moved that the City of Atlanta would choose to honor me in this way,” Lewis said. “I am more than lucky but very blessed that the people of the Fifth District have allowed me to represent and serve them for more than 30 years. It has been a real love affair. I have loved them, and I know I am fortunate that they have loved me back in return. I think about so many from the movement who also deserve this kind of honor. Too many are gone. I am just glad I am here to witness all of this. I thank Councilman Andre Dickens for sponsoring this legislation, City Council Chair Felicia Moore for her leadership and the Atlanta City Council for making this a reality.”

John Robert Lewis has made a tremendous impact on our nation ever since he made the decision to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement. He has remained at the vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggle in the United States.

“It is such a privilege to honor Civil Rights hero Congressman John Lewis,” said Post 3 At-Large City Council member Andre Dickens. “As a native of Atlanta, I grew up watching Congressman Lewis. I witnessed firsthand the work he has done to improve the lives of the least of these, as he served as my City Council member, and later as my Congressman. This is a small gesture compared to the great sacrifices, service and dedication of Congressman John Lewis, but one that will remind the people of Atlanta and our visitors from around the world that his legacy will live forever in our great city.”

Lewis is celebrated as a Civil Rights hero both at home and abroad. The Troy, Alabama native has been an agent of change for most of his life. The congressman became involved in the Civil Rights Movement at an early age in his native Alabama and quickly gained notoriety as a champion of downtrodden people throughout the United States and later as a vocal leader in the anti-apartheid divestment movement in South Africa.  

“John Lewis has dedicated his entire adult life to freedom of all those who are oppressed and left behind in our society,” said City Council President Felicia Moore. “It is befitting that Freedom Parkway now bears his name. It is a gateway to the Carter Center, a place where visitors come from all over the world to learn about resolving conflicts and dedicate themselves to upholding a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering.”

The Rev. C.T. Vivian agreed. Vivian and Lewis both served alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement.

“John Lewis was one of the most important people in the movement, a good human being without doubt,” said Vivian. “Naming Freedom Parkway after Lewis is very befitting.”

At an early age, Lewis would become known as one of the “Big Six” leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. He was named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), an organization largely responsible for organizing student activism. Lewis was nationally recognized at the age of 23 as an architect and a keynote speaker at the March on Washington in August 1963. One year later, the young activist ascended to the leadership of the Mississippi Freedom Summer. Lewis remained ever steadfast in the forefront of the movement.

The following year, Lewis, along with other Civil Rights leaders, led the most iconic nonviolent protest in American history, when more than 600 orderly protesters marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Despite their peaceful efforts to highlight the lack of voter rights, the protestors were attacked by Alabama State Troopers with night sticks and tear gas that resulted in Lewis’ near-death injuries. This violent confrontation would become known as “Bloody Sunday” and would spearhead the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the face of numerous arrests, attacks and serious injuries, Lewis remained loyal to the cause and the people he served.

Persistent in his passion for equality, he became the associate director of the Field Foundation and participated in the Southern Regional Council’s voter registration programs. He would go on to become the director of the Voter Education Project (VEP), transforming the nation’s political climate by adding nearly four million minorities to the voter rolls. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Lewis to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency. In 1981, Lewis was elected to the Atlanta City Council, becoming an advocate for ethics in government and neighborhood preservation. He has served as the Democratic U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District since 1986.

When asked about Congressman Lewis’ accomplishments and service to humanity, longtime friend Xernona Clayton said, “His work hasn’t gotten enough praise. There aren’t enough monuments dedicated to his service. He is consistent in his dignity and how he affects change in the world.

“What can I say about John Lewis’ service? I can’t say enough,” said Clayton.

Lewis is currently the Senior Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House, a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and ranking member of its Subcommittee on Oversight. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University and is a graduate of American Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been awarded more than 50 honorary degrees from a number of prestigious colleges and universities.

For his efforts, Lewis has received a number of prestigious awards, including the Medal of Freedom, our country’s highest civilian honor, granted by former President Barack Obama; the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize; and the only John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage Award” for Lifetime Achievement ever granted by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. He has also been awarded several honors for his literary works and has written New York Times and Washington Post bestsellers. John Lewis is known as an authority on the Civil Rights Movement and is consulted by many for his thoughts and guidance.

John Lewis Freedom Parkway Photo 1

From left to right: Atlanta City Councilmember Andre Dickens, U.S. Congressman John Lewis, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

 

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