A Site with Significance
The Historic Decatur Courthouse in Atlanta has some history. The tribute will be located on the walkway approaching it.
The DeKalb County Courthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and honored by Governor Jimmy Carter through a State of Georgia Proclamation.
Congressman Lewis served the district where the courthouse stands for 17 consecutive terms.
Did You Know?
The DeKalb County Confederate Monument is a Confederate memorial that formerly stood in Decatur, Georgia, United States. The 30-foot stone obelisk was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy near the old county courthouse in 1908 where it stood for over 100 years.
On June 12, 2020, following activism by the protest group Beacon Hill Decatur and Decatur High School students, the removal of the monument was ordered by Superior Court Justice Clarence Seeliger on the grounds that it constituted a public nuisance under the Georgia code. The monument, removed on June 18, was among a number of memorials removed following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020.
MLK JR. sentenced to chain gang
The year of 1960 was pivotal for civil rights in America. Segregationist politicians insisted on upholding racist laws and policies that denied black people equal access to many aspects of public life. Legal challenges moved slowly. That year’s presidential candidates vied for the support of southern white voters amid the simmering frustrations of black people. College students including John Lewis risked arrest by openly disobeying the race laws. Inspired by the lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, and guided by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of nonviolent civil disobedience, Atlanta’s students led sit-ins and boycotts that cut deeply into the profits of white businesses.
King joined them in October 1960, raising pressure that brought Atlanta’s leaders to negotiate an end to the campaign in exchange for desegregating public places. Everyone was freed but King, who faced probation after pleading guilty to a false charge of driving without a license months earlier, even though he carried a valid Alabama license. Judge J. Oscar Mitchell sentenced him to four months of hard labor.
Georgia’s leaders had sought to silence King, but it backfired when John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert got involved, just before Election Day. Mitchell agreed to free King on bond, prompting blacks to vote Democrat in an effort to end Jim Crow laws in the South.
A NEW DAY
The John Lewis Commemorative Task Force was formed to honor the life
and legacy of congressman Lewis as well as to provide a symbol of inclusivity, equality, and justice where a different type of symbol once stood.
The task force — led by DeKalb County District 5 Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson and Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett — was created in August 2020 and tasked with making a recommendation as to the best way to commemorate Lewis in DeKalb County.
At the Jan. 26 2021 DeKalb County commissioners meeting, commissioners unanimously approved a resolution that will create a memorial site honoring Lewis in front of the historic DeKalb County courthouse.
"What an honor it was to join Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson to sign the declaration establishing the John Lewis Commemorative Task Force," Mayor Garrett said in a news release at the time. "John Lewis was an inspiration and voice of hope for all and his legacy lives on to instill a vigilant expectant hope to this generation of young advocates of good trouble."