Tomorrow, Freedom Parkway, a major east-west thoroughfare through 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 will be held at the intersection of Ponce de Leon Avenue and the parkway to bear 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 5th 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.”
In March last year, the Atlanta City Council unanimously passed a resolution to create a Task Force to determine an appropriate manner in which to honor Lewis, such as renaming a street or naming or dedicating a public place to celebrate the Civil Rights leader who has dedicated his life to fighting for the freedom and humanity of others.
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 struggles in the United States.
“It is such a privilege to honor Civil Rights hero Congressman John Lewis. As a native of Atlanta, I grew up watching Congressman Lewis as a member of City Council and later as my Congressman, and I aspired to follow in his footsteps,” said Post 3 At-Large City Council member Andre Dickens. “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.”
Celebrated as a hero both at home and abroad, the Troy, Ala., 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 progressive social movements and human rights challenges throughout the United States and later, as a leader in the divestment of an apartheid South Africa.
“John Lewis has dedicated his entire adult life to freedom of all those 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 uphold 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 him is very befitting.”
At an early age, Lewis became 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 over 600 orderly protesters marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. 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.
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 B.A. in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University, and is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been awarded over 50 honorary degrees from a number of prestigious colleges and universities.
For his efforts, Lewis has received a number of prestigious awards, including the highest civilian honor the Medal of Freedom, granted by 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 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