Plan For Confederate Statue To Be Replaced With Memorial To Civil Rights Activist John Lewis Moves Forward
Proposals to replace a Confederate statue with a memorial to civil rights leader John Lewis have been given the support of a Georgia committee, paving the way for the plan to move forward.
The House State Properties Committee gave bipartisan support to the plan to place a statue of John Lewis in the US Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, with only one member voting against. The next stage of the proposals will be to form a committee to chose a sculptor.
Senior Georgia Republicans have also backed plans for the statue, including Governor Brian Kemp and the state lieutenant governor. The push to replace the statue of Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens (no, not that Alexander Hamilton,) gained momentum earlier this year during the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd in May last year.
Following Lewis’s death, calls grew to replace the statue with a memorial to the civil rights leader, who represented Georgia in the House of Representatives for 33 years. Each state is responsible for selecting two statues to be placed in the National Statuary Hall, and Georgia’s statue of Alexander Hamilton Stephens has remained a particular point of contention in recent years. There are currently eight statues in the hall representing monuments to the Confederacy.
Back in June, a Georgia judge set the plan for a new statue in motion after they overruled an old state law banning the removal or alteration of monuments to Confederate soldiers.
In a case concerning the removal of a different Confederate memorial, the judge ruled that:
In short, 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.
That memorial, officially titled ‘The Lost Cause’, is also set to be replaced with a statue of John Lewis. Georgia is one of several states grappling with how to deal with their Confederate iconography in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. While some states have chosen to remove and replace their statues entirely, others have resisted, calling instead for plaques and other contextualising features to be added instead.
Since Lewis’s death, multiple plans have been suggested for how the civil rights titan should be honoured in the US Capitol building. There is currently a memorial placard outside House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office, which he was forced to replace last month after it was vandalised during the Capitol riots.
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